In Kalamazoo, Senator Stabenow Announces Bipartisan HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow today announced legislation to help people who are living with Alzheimer's disease and support those caring for a family member with this devastating illness. The Health Outcomes, Planning, and Education (HOPE) for Alzheimer's Act would provide Alzheimer's patients and their families with much-needed information about the disease and possible treatment options. The bill creates a new care-management planning session for newly diagnosed Alzheimer's patients under Medicare. This new benefit would encourage doctors to diagnose more patients with Alzheimer's disease, and will give patients access to a doctor visit to understand the diagnosis, treatment options, and what medical and community services are available.

For over 25 years, Sen. Stabenow has been leading the effort to improve the way Alzheimer's Disease is diagnosed, increase support for caregivers, and prioritize research into treatments and a cure. As a State Legislator in the 1980s, she chaired a joint committee of the House Public and Mental Health Committees on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders to improve the diagnosis, caregiver support and research of the disease. Now, Senator Stabenow is using her new role as Ranking Member of the Senate's Finance Subcommittee on Health to champion early diagnosis and treatment options through Medicare.

"The early symptoms of Alzheimer's disease can be terrifying for individuals and their families, especially when they don't know what's happening and don't have a diagnosis," said Senator Stabenow. "The HOPE for Alzheimer's Act will give Alzheimer's patients and their families the information and support they need to cope with this heartbreaking disease. Because of the work being done by Michigan advocates and the Alzheimer's Association, this can be the year we have a real breakthrough in the fight against Alzheimer's."

"Receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer's, our nation's 6th leading cause of death, is devastating. Education about the disease, what to expect in the future, long term care planning, legal resources, community resources, end of life plans, and understanding support are essential for those living with the disease and their families. The HOPE for Alzheimer's Act would ensure that families are connected after diagnosis to a care consultant who can educate and help families navigate what can be a very lengthy and expensive journey," said Jennifer Howard, Executive Director, Alzheimer's Association, Michigan Great Lakes Chapter.

"As a long term service provider for elders and their families, Senior Services of Southwest Michigan is proud to promote the HOPE for Alzheimer's Act legislation. This effort is an important first step in providing a network of supports for Alzheimer's victims and their caregivers to bring an improved quality of life for those impacted by this devastating disease," said Robert W. Littke President and CEO Senior Services of Southwest Michigan.

Fewer than half of people diagnosed with Alzheimer's say they were told the diagnosis, according to a just-released 2015 Alzheimer's Association report. In contrast, more than 90 percent of people with the four most common cancers (breast, colorectal, lung, and prostate) say they were told their diagnosis. Alzheimer's disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States and Alzheimer's and other dementias will cost the nation $226 billion in 2015 according to the new report.

Over the years, studies have shown that providing patients and families with a full range of information and support results in better outcomes for those living with Alzheimer's, including higher quality of care, increased use of needed community services, reduced patient behavioral and psychiatric symptoms, and reduced caregiver stress and depression.