TOLEDO ꟷ A panel of experts from around Ohio has determined that the state lacks a coordinated approach to the growing public health crisis of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

Now advocates around the state are waiting to find out what the recommendations are to fix it.

Ohio’s Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Task Force is formulating steps the state should take to create Ohio’s first state Alzheimer’s Plan. The Task Force is evaluating seven core areas – from early detection and intervention to long-term services and support.

With one out of every nine Ohioans aged 65 and older impacted by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, according to the Task Force’s preliminary findings summary, the end result should have a wide impact.

Eric VanVlymen, Regional Leader for the Alzheimer’s Association in Ohio, said, “As the state begins to take steps to fundamentally and holistically transform the services and systems that help Ohio’s families impacted by Alzheimer’s and dementia, our hope is that Ohio emerges as a leader in Alzheimer’s early detection, education, support, and care delivery.”

Dr. Robert Applebaum, Professor of Gerontology and Director of the Ohio Long-Term Care Research Project at the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University, said over the past 20 years, Ohio has dramatically improved its system of long-term services from going to about nine out of 10 people being in nursing homes to now more people being served with in-home community-based care, which includes services provided at assisted living facilities.

“(But) just like many other states, there are substantial challenges, and these are the things we are going to have to deal with in the next 20 years because we are going to increase our population in disability pretty dramatically and we’ve got to respond to the challenges we currently face,” Applebaum said.

Some of the challenges include:

· Growth of those 80-85 years old, an age group which experiences more dementia

· Assisted living options, particularly for people with memory care issues, not adequately supported by Medicaid

· Not enough focus on early detection of dementia and helping people forestall cognitive decline

Medicare Part B covers a separate visit with a doctor or a specialist to do a full review of cognitive function. Yet according to the Task Force’s preliminary findings summary, fewer than half of Ohioans age 65 and older receive regular cognitive assessments.

“We spend almost all of our money on people after the problem has occurred as opposed to trying to help the problem from occurring or getting worse,” Applebaum said. “We would be very smart to at least put some level of resources into helping people forestall or delay or prevent the disability that is physical and cognitive because we know that there are things people can do on the cognitive side to delay declines,” he said.

In terms of Medicaid, Applebaum said that the system in Ohio really uses Medicaid as the vehicle to deliver support for people with disabilities. “But the problem is that most older people are not eligible for Medicaid – less than 10 percent of older people in Ohio are eligible for Medicaid,” he said.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s Facts and Figures report, last year Ohio spent $2.5 billion in Medicaid costs for caring for people with Alzheimer’s.

“Ohio is a big state and we have the sixth largest elder population in America. We’re going to have a lot of old people and we’ve got to be prepared and we are not,” Applebaum said.

About the Alzheimer's Association

The Alzheimer's Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer's care, support and research. Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer's disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer's®. Visit or call our 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900.

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