Missouri panel recommends changes in Alzheimer's care

Tuesday, November 16, 2010 | 4:58 p.m. CST

JEFFERSON CITY — A state report on Alzheimer's disease released Tuesday recommends that Missouri focus on diagnosing cases early, making services available and improving training for first responders and health care workers.

Officials estimate that more than 110,000 Missouri residents have Alzheimer's disease or another type of dementia, though that number is expected to increase to more than 130,000 in the next 15 years because people are living longer.

The state report recommends work to increase public attention and promote efforts to detect Alzheimer's disease sooner. It also recommends improving the available information on the disorder and urges the state to ensure adequate training for health care workers and first responders in handling people with dementia

The report was produced by a 19-member task force that was led by Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and included state agency leaders, doctors, lawmakers, a member with early-stage dementia and a caregiver for someone with the disorder. Lawmakers ordered the study in legislation approved last year.

Specific ideas include a statewide dementia assessment by doctors and a review of the state Medicaid program — called MO HealthNet — for gaps that make it harder for people to use in-home and community care. It also recommends developing a "road map" that provides a variety of information about caring for people from diagnosis to death.

It also urged greater focus on research and presenting new developments to the public.

Kinder said in a statement Tuesday that the report would help care for Missourians with Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

"The findings, recommendations and road map this plan provides will help us better assist those who are affected by Alzheimer's today and decades from now," Kinder said.

Alzheimer's disease is a neurological disorder that is marked by memory loss, disorientation and personality change. There is no known cure.

Nationwide, more than 5 million people have the disorder. Care for those with Alzheimer's disease and dementia is estimated to cost $172 billion annually, including $122 billion for Medicare and states' Medicaid programs.

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