For the past two years, a working group of 40 Montana volunteers, health care professionals, private and public agencies has been crafting a plan for tackling a fatal disease that has no cure yet and is expected to afflict 27,000 of us by 2025 as the state population ages.
The Montana Alzheimer’s Working Group introduced its state plan on Monday, a day on which the Helena Capitol dome was lit to honor those living with the brain disease and to honor their caregivers. The event occurred the same day that a legislative interim committee met in the Capitol to consider a package of draft legislation intended to improve support for Montanans with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. The Interim Children, Families, Health and Human Services Committee also is reviewing draft bills to set standards and guidelines for guardianships, a legal necessity for adults with dementia and no family.
Caregivers from Billings, Malta and elsewhere testified for hours to the committee Monday. Speakers were moved to tears as they recounted the struggles of clients and family members with dementia. Members of the Alzheimer’s working group strongly endorsed the draft legislation.
The 2015 Legislature directed the interim committee to study guardianship issues. After hearing from leaders of the Alzheimer’s work group, particularly those from Billings, committee members, including Rep. Jessica Karjala, D-Billings, and Sen. Roger Webb, R-Billings, expanded the panel’s focus to include the growing demands of dementia care.
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Opinion: How to Tackle Alzheimer's in Montana