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Alzheimer's Workgroup Announces New State Plan

The Montana Alzheimer’s and Dementia Workgroup announced its new Montana Alzheimer’s State Plan on Monday.
Corin Cates-Carney
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The Montana Alzheimer’s and Dementia Workgroup announced its new Montana Alzheimer’s State Plan on Monday.";s:

After two years of work, a group is releasing a plan to combat what it calls one of the most important health care crises of our generation.

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and Montana.

On Monday, representatives from the Montana Alzheimer’s and Dementia Workgroup announced its new Montana Alzheimer’s State Plan.

Lynn Mullowney is the Executive Director of the Montana Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. She says the state plan was created by the workgroup to improve and guide the future care of people with dementia and "to identify what are ways Montana can more effectively, more efficiently, more urgently address the growing epidemic that is Alzheimer’s.”

The 40-member working group is a mix of private and public advocates and officials, including the Alzheimer’s Association, the Department of Public Health and Human Services, the Veterans Administration and assisted living and long-term care facilities.

Mullowney says the plan has goals of promoting public awareness of the disease, expanding research efforts and making sure there are enough healthier workers to meet the needs of an aging population.

But, she said the plan is lacking teeth - it does not directly influence policy or require state action.

However, Montana legislators in the Children, Families, Health and Human Services Interim Committee are drafting four bills that could fund aging services and the care of people with Alzheimer’s.

Those bills are being prepared for the 2017 session.

There are an estimated 19,000 people in Montana living with Alzheimer's. In the next decade, that number is expected to rise to 27,000.

Jennifer Wilkinson Marshall from Phillips County shared a story about her grandmother at the workgroup meeting Monday.

"Between 7:45 and 9:45 we had the same conversation 12 times," she said. "It's a daily conversation of who are you? Why are you calling me? I don't remember if I ate. I think I showered within the last week."

Marshall's testimony was one of a handful given by professional care providers and family members about the need for more services to help people with the mental deterioration disease known as Alzheimer's.

The Children, Families, Health and Human Services Committee bills will continue to be reviewed for possible proposal during the next legislative session in 2017.

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