TRENTON – Legislation spearheaded by Senator Richard J. Codey to improve care for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia and calling for increased funding for research were advanced today by the Senate Health Committee.
The legislative package includes a series of bills that would improve care for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia at home and in hospitals in New Jersey, and a resolution calling on Congress to double federal Alzheimer’s research funding in fiscal year 2016 and to develop a plan through 2020 to increase funding to $2 billion annually.
“Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and the only disease among the top ten causes of death without an effective means of prevention, treatment, or cure, and it deserves our attention, both, in our state and nationally,” said Senator Codey (D-Essex and Morris), who is leading the effort. “I know firsthand the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease because I watched its devastating effects as it seized my father’s life.”
Sponsored by Senator Codey and Senator Ronald L. Rice, the first bill (S-2959) would require healthcare professionals, at the time of taking a medical history or performing a physical examination of a patient admitted to an emergency room or hospital, to include a notation in the patient’s medical record if he or she has Alzheimer’s disease or related disorders. The notation is to be prominently displayed in the record.
The goal of this legislation is to assist in the effective care of patients, ensuring that all hospital staff who come into contact with individuals who suffer from Alzheimer’s are aware of their condition and will treat them accordingly and with due consideration to their needs and risks.
“Alzheimer’s patients have diverse needs and present unique risks, especially in hospital settings, and making healthcare professionals aware of their condition can prevent avoidable situations like patients wandering away from hospitals and endangering themselves,” said Senator Codey (D-Essex and Morris). “This bill offers healthcare workers useful information to perform their jobs well and affords patients the safety they need and the level of care they deserve.”
Also sponsored by Senator Codey and Senator Rice, the second bill (S-2960) would amend current law to require the training of homemaker-home health aides in the specialized care of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders. The training program would include the causes and progression of the disease and methods to deal with the specific problems encountered in the care of patients with Alzheimer’s. Specifically, this would include communication with patients, their psychological, social, and physical needs, and safety measures necessary for patients with Alzheimer’s or related dementia.
“By offering such training to those involved in the day-to-day care of individuals with Alzheimer’s, we are fully equipping them with the knowledge and expertise to meet the challenges that they may face in caring for these vulnerable adults,” said Senator Rice (D-Essex). “We are also ensuring care that is suitably tailored for the needs of a growing population that deserves our attention, care, and compassion.”
The third measure (S-2961), sponsored by Senator Codey and Senate Health Committee Chair Joseph F. Vitale, would clarify that Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders may be listed as a secondary cause of death on a death certificate when the deceased person had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and it is determined that Alzheimer’s was a significant contributing cause of his or her death.
“That people are dying of Alzheimer’s disease is a fact. In order to better understand the disease and find better ways of prevention and treatment, it is important to accurately assess who is being affected and to what degree,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). “With this data, we can be more strategic about fighting the disease which is quickly climbing to the top of the list of causes of death in America.”
It is estimated that 5.2 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia. At the current pace, the number of individuals with the disease is expected to reach 16 million by 2050 in the United States and over 115 million globally.
Senator Codey also sponsored a resolution, SR-121, urging Congress to double Alzheimer’s research funding in fiscal year 2016 and to develop a plan for fiscal years 2017 through 2020 to increase funding to $2 billion annually to reach the national goal of effective treatment by 2025.
The National Plan for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias has set the ambitious goal of an effective treatment by 2025. The plan was derived through the work of 15 federal agencies and departments and leading scientists in the field. The required research funding to obtain this goal is $2 billion per year.
“Investing in strong and sustained research could perhaps spare my children and other families in the future from the painful experience that I endured as I watched my father fade away slowly,” added Senator Codey.
Currently, the National Institutes of Health annually spends about $6 billion on cancer research, $3 billion on HIV/AIDS research, and $2 billion on cardiovascular disease research. Funding for Alzheimer’s research is $600 million.
The bills were released from the Senate Health Committee unanimously and now head to the full Senate for consideration.