Meeting the needs of our aging population
Approximately 94,000 Minnesotans over the age of 65 and thousands of Minnesotans under the age of 65 have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Over the next twenty-five years, the number of Minnesotans over age 65 will double from 600,000 to 1.2 million. This may seem like the distant future, but we need to start taking steps today to ensure that our state will be prepared for this significant change in population. One of the top issues we will be looking at is Alzheimer’s disease.
In 2009, the Minnesota Legislature created the Alzheimer’s Disease Working Group and placed it under the supervision of the Minnesota Board on Aging (http://www.mnaging.org/). The working group spent 18 months examining the array of needs of individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, services available to meet these needs, and the capacity of the state and current providers to meet these and future needs.
The working group brought their findings to the Legislature earlier this year and delivered a report making vital recommendations on policy and legislative actions. At that time they also launched a new initiative called “Prepare Minnesota for Alzheimer’s 2020,” led by the Alzheimer’s Association.
Major themes of their report include:
1. Earlier identification of the disease and subsequent use of health care home teams and other state and federal reform elements,
2. Expanded education of physicians and other health professionals needed to support early identification and interdisciplinary care,
3. Adoption of nationally developed quality standards,
4. Assisting communities to build awareness and support families in a culturally appropriate manner,
5. Use of evidence-based caregiver support,
6. Publicize information about Minnesota-based research and facilitate participation in studies, especially by members of diverse populations,
7. A strong encouragement for the departments of health and human services to review the emerging literature establishing cost saving aspects that accompany the quality enhancing steps being recommended.
Shortly after the recommendations were presented, legislation was created to look at prevalence and screening measures. Along with developing a health care home learning collaborative curriculum that includes screening and education on best practices regarding identification and management of Alzheimer’s, the legislation (passed in the 2011 special session) calls for a study of differences in the outcomes and costs of current practices for caring for those with Alzheimer’s disease compared to the outcomes and costs resulting from:
1. Earlier identification of Alzheimer’s and other dementias;
2. Improved support of family caregivers; and
3. Improved collaboration between medical care management and community-based supports.
This legislation is a good first step in our state’s preparation for the future, but it is just that; a first step. We need to continue to ensure that Minnesota is prepared for its aging population. I encourage you to visit the Alzheimer’s Association’s website (http://www.alz.org/mnnd/) to see the great work they are doing.
As always, please contact me with questions or suggestions about any issue. Please visit my Senate website at senate.mn/senatorwiger. I also encourage you to visit me at the Capitol, or let me know if you’d like me to stop by your home or apartment. Also, please tune in to my local cable TV show, “Your Capitol: What’s Up?,” which appears on public access channels 15 and 16.