A new law passed in August 14th in Massachusetts is going to change the way that healthcare professionals treat Alzheimer’s disease. The law, which was officially signed by Governor Charlie Baker, is called the Mass Alzheimer’s and Dementia Act. Proponents of the act at the Alzheimer’s Association call Alzheimer’s the most under-recognized threat to public health in the 21st century, costing the nation upwards of $277 billion annually in Medicare, Medicaid, and other care-giving expenses.
The biggest organizations that have been pushing the bill are the LeadingAge Massachusetts and Massachusetts Senior Care Association, who united to advocate for the passage H. 4116. The act will require all physicians, assistants, and registered nurses who treat adults to attend a one-time training event in diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease for treating and caring for people with dementia. The law also mandates that doctors who diagnose Alzheimer’s disease must also inform the patient’s family or legal representative about the diagnosis and provide information and resources to help them plan care-giving services.
Caseworkers who work in protective services must also undergo the one-time training to help them recognize the symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s such as cognitive impairments and misunderstandings that can help expedite the screening and diagnoses processes. Under the law, all hospitals in the state must develop and implement programs for recognizing and treating dementia by October of 2021. In addition, the state department in charge of health and human services must asses all current state programs dealing with Alzheimer’s and determine if these facilities are meeting the required standards.
The state will create a new 17 member that will advise state officials and health care providers in how they can implement and manage proper memory care. The council is scheduled to meet on a quarterly basis and produce annual reports that give updates to the plan as well as evaluate all state-funding and research dedicated to the endeavor.
Says Governor Baker:
“Alzheimer's impacts us all in some way — as a taxpayer, loved one, caregiver, or by developing the disease ourselves. Regardless of socioeconomic standing, geographic location or political beliefs, we should all be concerned about the public health threat posed by Alzheimer's.”
How Does Alzheimer’s Disease Work?
Before symptoms begin to arrive, there are changes that take place in the brain on a microscopic level. The brain has over 100 billion neurons connecting to one another. Each cluster of cells is responsible for different cognitive functions. For example, some specialize in thinking, learning, memory, sight, hearing, smelling, and muscle movement. Scientists believe that Alzheimers works by preventing parts of these neurons from functioning correctly. Think of it like a factory that is continually running but gradually wears down over time and in some cases completely breaks down. As some factories (neurons) break down, this affects the functioning of related factories, and the disease spreads.
Scientists attribute this break down to the buildup of plaques and tangles between cells, which are made up of protein fragments and twisted protein fibers. Although all of us develop these buildups, people with Alzheimer's and related forms of dementia develop these in greater quantities and in predictable patterns. This blockage results in the death and spread of nerve cells resulting in memory failure, personality changes, and other symptoms.
The most surefire way of accurately diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease is to consult a medical professional. There is no specialty for diagnosing this disease but is recommended to seek out specialists in the field of the mind, such as Neurologists, Psychiatrists, or Psychologists. These professionals will ask for a history of medical conditions and to list any symptoms the patient suspects may be correlated. From there they will conduct an in-person analysis to formulate a diagnosis. The most common signs to look for are:
- Memory Loss That Interrupts Daily Life
- Challenges With Reasoning and Problem Solving
- Confusion With Time and Place
- Problems Speaking Coherently
- Misplacing Items Often
- Sudden Changes in Mood or Personality
- Poor Judgement
With early detection, you can seek out treatment options, such as finding an assisted living facility that offers memory care. You can also explore other treatment options that may provide some relief of symptoms. In order to continue living independently, you may also want to consider an independent living facility or a home care worker
If your loved one is in need of more care and assistance for their daily lives than you are capable of providing, it may be time to start searching for new options. You may feel as though a nursing home is your safest bet, but the truth is that assisted living communities have advanced quickly in recent years along with access to high-quality healthcare options. Nowadays, you don't have to settle between medical services and comfort. Assisted living communities at Landmark Senior Living provide a range of care services along with amenities, daily programs and activities, and transportation services at your loved one’s disposal.