Raleigh, N.C. — Gov. Pat McCrory followed a recommendation from a state task force on Alzheimer's and dementia in placing an extra $4 million in his proposed 2016-17 state budget for Alzheimer's care, and advocates are now calling on lawmakers to include the funding in the final budget.
One in seven people over age 65 in North Carolina have Alzheimer's or dementia, AARP state director Doug Dickerson said, and many of them are cared for at home by family members. While that's an arrangement that most people with memory loss prefer, Dickerson said, it can be very stressful for the caregivers.
McCrory's proposal adds $1 million to Project Care, a program that pays for professional caregivers to occasionally relieve family caregivers.
"The biggest thing is to help caregivers get a break because, when caregivers can get a break, they’re more likely to continue to provide care," Dickerson said. "When they don't have that break, they tend to burn out, and when a caregiver burns out, sometimes they just accelerate that decision to say, 'It's time for a nursing home.'"
The governor's spending plan also includes an additional $3 million to add 320 slots to the Community Alternatives Program for Disabled Adults, including those with memory loss issues. Dickerson calls the program a low-cost alternative to putting people in more formal care settings.
"Anything that can be done to help a person live more independently at home rather than being institutionalized is something that's going to save money and more likely give the person what he or she wants," he said.
Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, had a family member with dementia and said almost everyone knows someone with Alzheimer's.
"It's really, in some respects, a growing epidemic," Dollar said.
Still, the chief budget writer for the House couldn't say whether lawmakers will keep that funding in their proposed budget, which should be released later this month. The state has some surplus revenue this year, but he said a lot of needs are competing for it.
"I certainly believe it is a high priority with what we’re doing, and we’ll see how we fit all these budget pieces together in the next few weeks," Dollar said. "There certainly are a number of priorities in the health and human services. We do want to be able to address as many of those needs as we can."