HARRISBURG – Alzheimer’s and dementia legislation aimed at promoting greater public awareness of cognitive decline, authored by Rep. Carrie Lewis DelRosso (R-Allegheny/Westmoreland), has passed the House Health Committee. House Bill 1082
would shed more light on Alzheimer’s disease and all dementias throughout Pennsylvania and create a structure to unite patients and health care providers around cognitive concerns that will lead to an earlier diagnosis of the disease.
“Alzheimer’s and dementia cognitive diseases are a growing public health challenge,” said Lewis DelRosso. “More than 280,000 Pennsylvanians are living with cognitive diseases, and more than 500,000 Pennsylvanians are unpaid caregivers to those who live with the diseases. The key to better medical care is detecting these horrible diseases quicker. It allows people to plan better, both financially and emotionally.”
Only about half of people with Alzheimer’s or dementia have been diagnosed. One in 10 Pennsylvanians aged 45 and older experience confusion and memory loss, but nearly half of them have not talked to a health care professional about it. Some factors that contribute to low diagnosis rates include stigma, cultural differences, awareness and understanding. Some may not be able to obtain a diagnosis and those who do struggle with how to manage the diseases and access optimal care.
Alzheimer’s is the most expensive disease in America. This year, total payments for caring for Americans aged 65 and older with Alzheimer’s is $355 billion, the fifth consecutive year that the total payments will surpass a quarter of a trillion dollars. Pennsylvania’s share of Medicaid spending for Alzheimer’s accounted for nearly $3.7 billion in 2020, a number expected to increase 10.2% by 2025. That said, an early diagnosis would not only improve the quality of care and life, but also can reduce the financial impact of the disease as well.
“An early diagnosis can allow individuals with the disease and their caregivers to build a care and support team, and have discussions about the financial future and long-term needs,” said Kristina Fransel, executive director for the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. “Rep. Lewis DelRosso’s bill is a necessary solution for Pennsylvania to create a better pathway toward early detection and diagnosis of the disease, a critical step in addressing this ever-growing public health crisis.”
“As a retired public health nurse, I’ve seen the challenges that people living with the disease and their families face in accessing critical care needed to diagnose and manage this challenging disease,” said Theresa Chalich, RN, MPH and volunteer ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Association. “This is especially true among communities of color, where rates of the disease are disproportionately higher in older African Americans and Hispanics, and the primary care workforce plays a critical role in bridging the detection, accurate diagnosis and care referral gap.”
“My bill calls on the departments of Health and Aging to establish a program for primary care providers that will underscore the value of an early diagnosis,” Lewis DelRosso continued. “It will provide them with the necessary tools to detect and manage the disease, as well as increase awareness of cognitive decline.”
The bill will now be considered by the full House.
Rep. Carrie Lewis DelRosso
33rd Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Michelle Swab