Bipartisan support secures added family, caregiver resources

By Nicholas Hart

The Alzheimer’s Association heralded new laws intended to help Montanans dealing with Alzheimer’s and related dementia. Key pieces of legislation received strong bipartisan support and have the potential to increase access to Medicaid, strengthen protections from financial abuse and exploitation, and enhance caregiver support.

At the request of the interim committee that he chaired. Rep. Ron Ehli, R-Hamilton, sponsored the most costly and most impactful of the bills, HB17 – which would raise reimbursement rates for assisted living facilities and increase Medicaid access to as many as 200 low-income Montana seniors. Though the $5 million investment cleared the House with unanimous bipartisan support before being signed into law, the additional services are not yet available.

“HB 17 was an effort by all of us to make it happen,” said Ehli. “Of course, having the bill signed puts it in statute, however, the funding mechanism for this biennium is dependent on the revenue projections holding up.”

Other Alzheimer’s and dementia-related legislation included HB24 which provides protections from financial exploitation to vulnerable persons, HB70 which strengthens the adult guardianship system further, and HB163 which requires hospitals to record the caregiver’s name upon patient admission, notify the caregiver if the patient is transferred or sent home and give the caregiver instructions for care after discharge.

Montanans traveled from across the state to share eye-opening testimony of caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s and related dementias causing them to exhaust their assets, forfeit their jobs and compromise their own health. In Montana alone, 20,000 people are living with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia and 49,000 family members provide their care. Across the country, 5.4 million Americans are living with the disease and another 15 million family and friends are caregivers. It is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. and the only disease among the top 10 causes of death that cannot be cured, prevented or even slowed.

 

Nicholas Hart is an outreach specialist for The Alzheimer’s Association, the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Their 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. Their vision is a world without Alzheimer’s. Visit alz.org. 

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