Advocates, lawmakers discuss personal price of dementia
The wife of legendary University of North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith was among those who briefed state lawmakers Tuesday on the need to plan for and fund care for a growing number of people with dementia.Posted — Updated
Smith, who died a little more than a year ago, suffered from memory issues for the final eight years of his life, his wife, Dr. Linnea Smith, said.
"I now know that it doesn't matter how successful an individual is, how well-known he is or how remarkable his memory is, that doesn't make one exempt from developing a neurocognitive disorder," she said.
The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that North Carolina caregivers like Smith provided $6.2 billion in unpaid care to loved ones with dementia in 2014.
The task force recommended a boost in state funding for caregiver support, more money for the state's 211 system – a 24/7 call center to help people find the services and resources they need – and a plan for enhancing employee leave policies for caregivers.
"The recommendations from this report will go a long way towards helping organize the available resources so that caregivers can find them," Smith said. "A resource toolkit, a single point of entry and specialized care management to help families navigate and plan will all ease the burden on families.”
Dr. Adam Zolotor, president and CEO of the North Carolina Institute of Medicine, said investing in care and support can go a long way to keeping people out of nursing homes.
"The recommendations in this report call for incremental investments in respite care, home and community services and Medicaid waiver programs that will support caregivers, delay institutionalization and decrease state Medicaid costs over time,” he said.
While 42 other states have developed a plan specific to Alzheimer's and dementia care, North Carolina has only just begun the process. Zolotor said North Carolina can benefit from the experience of those states to apply some best practices.
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