Assemblyman Steven Englebright and Senator Martin Golden Join Forces to Push a Package of Bills to Address Growing Issues Related to Alzheimer’s Disease

“#1 health crisis of the 21st century” – State Assembly and Senate press conference on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia
March 6, 2007

Albany, NY – New York Assembly member Steven Englebright and Senator Martin Golden, chairs, respectively of the committees on aging in their houses, said their committees would today approve a series of bills dealing with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

In 1992, the Legislature established the Task Force on Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias to identify priorities, policy alternatives and emerging issues with respect to caregivers and individuals with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. According to the task force, three hundred thousand older New York state residents suffer from dementia and this number is projected to continue growing rapidly.

During the next decade, the oldest segment of New York State’s population will account for over forty percent of all persons with dementia and these persons will require a wide array of services. Thus the urgency has increased for implementing both public health and social services initiatives to help persons with dementia and their caregivers.

This package of legislation will take proactive steps to develop a state Alzheimer’s disease plan, provide for earlier identification and intervention for persons with Alzheimer’s disease and their families, to promote public outreach and education related to Alzheimer’s disease, provide training and education to professionals to raise their level of competency when working with persons with Alzheimer’s disease and to provide funds for support services and tax credits for state of the art locater technology, to decrease the risk of wandering.

"I am very pleased to be here today with my colleague, Senator Golden, to introduce what I think is one of the most important packages that will be advanced in the legislature this year.” said Steven Englebright, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Aging. "Coined the disease of the 21st century, Alzheimer's disease and related dementia has a tremendous impact on an individual, their family and caregivers and on state spending. This package of bills will force the state to begin to deal with this problem by creating a state plan, training and educating the general public, caregivers and professionals and fund programs that are proven to enhance the individuals and the caregivers quality of life while delaying nursing home placement. I can think of nothing less important than helping New York's families better cope with this debilitating disease and sending a clear message that they are not alone.”

“Our State is aging faster than most States in the country, relative to our population, and Alzheimer’s and dementia are diseases that primarily affect the senior population,” Senator Golden said. "We know that one fourth of individuals with mild Alzheimer's disease progress to severe Alzheimer's within five years, and that another quarter die in this time period, that Alzheimer’s accounts for some 7% of the annual hospitalizations among older New Yorkers. There is no cure to the disease, but there is help. Things that Assemblyman Englebright and I have been promoting – an active healthy lifestyle, mental stimulation, education, re-employment, can all help to forestall the onset of the disease, and we can help families and caregivers cope with it.”

The five bill package includes:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease Plan for New York (A.899-A/S.2448): establishes a coordinating council of key state government policy makers and advocates and charges them with developing and updating a New York State plan.
  • Tax credit for purchase of locator technology (A.4146/S.2450): provides a tax credit for the purchase of state of the art locator technology to help keep safe individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Such individuals have a tendency to wander. Several devices use GPS technology to help locate these individuals.
  • Appropriation for Assistance programs (A.4147): appropriates money for caregiver support services, including Alzheimer's disease Assistance Centers (ADAC), Alzheimer's disease Community Service Program (ADCSP) and the Alzheimer's Community Assistance Program (AlzCAP).
  • Require cognitive impairment tests when entering or on discharge from hospitals (A.4148/S.2449): requires hospitals to determine if patients have cognitive impairments on entry or discharge. Dementia is typically undiagnosed until late, and asking simple questions can result in earlier diagnosis which leads to improved coordination of treatment and services, slowing the progression of the disease and better outcomes.
  • Alzheimer's disease outreach and education program (A.4149/S.2451): to promote professional and public awareness of the best practices for early identification of persons with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia and the roles that caregivers can provide. Requires development of training curricula, public service announcements, and other efforts and material for medical as well as non-medical personnel.

“The Coalition members thank Assemblyman Englebright and Senator Golden for understanding the importance of creating a comprehensive plan to ensure that families coping with the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease have the support and resources they need to continue to care for their loved ones at home,” said Mary Ann Ragona, President of the New York State Coalition of Alzheimer’s Association Chapters.

“I applaud Assemblyman Steven Englebright and Senator Martin Golden for their efforts to address the myriad of physical, emotional, and economic challenges facing the more than 300,000 New Yorkers whose lives are affected by Alzheimer's disease and wholeheartedly support passage of their thoughtful and comprehensive legislation," said Elizabeth Smith-Boivin, MSHSA, Director of the Anne B. Goldberg Alzheimer's Resource Program at Albany Medical Center.

“This bill package sends a strong message of hope to the escalating number of New Yorkers affected by Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.” said Eric J. Hall, chief executive officer, Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, a New York-based national nonprofit organization focused on providing optimal care to individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, and their families. “They astutely recognize that the impact of this brain disorder reaches beyond the individual to other family members, and are on exactly the right track to give families much-needed education and support. In particular, early detection is one of the most critical components in managing this disease; it paves the way for appropriate medical treatment and empowers consumers to plan for the future. These efforts can improve quality of life for all those affected by this heartbreaking disease.”

“There are an estimated 300,000 New Yorkers afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, and over 4.5 million nationwide. Absent development of a cure, up to 1.5 million New Yorkers and 16 million Americans will have this disease by mid-century,” continued Assemblyman Englebright, “We should invest in research, support what we already know works, and plan for the future now. The first wave of baby boomers turned 60 last year and the numbers of individuals over age of 65 will increase dramatically in the next few years.”

“Great work is underway that is helping better identify persons with the disease and assist caregivers who want to safely care for an impacted family member in their home,” said Gayla Williams, Retired Nurse with Alzheimer’s disease. “Families face a variety of challenges when a loved one develops Alzheimer’s disease. There are some very effective caregiver strategies that families can use to prepare for what could be a long term illness. New York State should increase access to caregiver support assistance and resources.”

Ms. Williams continued, “As a person with Alzheimer’s I am very sensitive to the fact that those of us with the disease and our caregivers need the type of supports called for by these bills. I hope both houses of the Legislature act quickly to pass this package. Families are willing to do a lot to keep a loved one at home, but they need support…no one can do it alone. ”

Cost effectiveness of these services has been well documented by academic research. The work of researcher Mary Mittelman, from the New York University School of Medicine found that such care can delay the need for institutionalization by over 500 days; potentially generating great savings for New York taxpayers by helping persons avoid the need for premature nursing home placement. This study can be found in the November 2006 issue of the Journal of Neurology.

“Clearly, families need help with understanding and dealing with the new challenges caregivers must cope with, as changing levels of ability and new patterns of behavior emerge,” continued Senator Golden. “The New York State Department of Health has estimated that the dollar value of the care provided by family caregivers exceeds $11 billion annually. As we struggle with getting the costs of the long term care system under control, we must remember the tremendous contributions being made by families each and every day and stand ready to help ease their burden.”

“The Alzheimer’s Association Chapters in New York State have been leading the effort to ensure that such support services, which have been proven cost effective, are available,” said Cathy James, CEO of the Central New York Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. “This legislative package will help ensure that the state has a plan in place to achieve this goal.

“We also see the importance of ensuring access to caregiver support services and respite care every day,” said Ms. James. “This kind of support helps to make the difference for the families we serve, allowing them to continue on in their roles as caregivers, and delay the need for more costly services.”