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Viewpoint from the Commonwealth

Making life better for people with dementia and their care partners

Secretary Alice BonnerSecretary Alice BonnerA top priority for the Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA) is promoting the best possible quality of life for individuals living with dementia and their care partners.

An estimated 5.3 million people age 65 and older in the United States suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias, including an estimated 130,000 right here in Massachusetts. The number of Massachusetts residents with Alzheimer’s is expected to rise to 150,000 by the year 2025, and continue to grow in the decades that follow. Because of this, we must prepare for many more people in our families and our Commonwealth living with some form of dementia.

Our ability to make those preparations got a big boost late last month when Governor Baker signed a new law that will make Massachusetts a national leader in addressing the impacts of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

The law, An Act relative to Alzheimer’s and related dementias, will strengthen the Commonwealth’s Age and Dementia Friendly movements by:

  • Creating an advisory council and integrated state plan to effectively address Alzheimer’s disease
  • Requiring content about Alzheimer’s and related dementias be incorporated into continuing education requirements for physicians, physician assistants, and nurses in order renew their licenses
  • Allowing doctors to share an Alzheimer’s diagnosis and treatment plan with a family member or legal representative within existing state and federal privacy laws
  • Requiring hospitals that serve adults to have a plan in place to assist in the recognition and management of patients with dementia within three years of the law’s enactment
  • Requiring elder protective services caseworkers to be trained on Alzheimer’s

This new law will help ensure that we are doing our best to improve the quality of care and quality of life of hundreds of thousands of families impacted by dementia.

During the ceremonial bill signing with legislative leaders and advocates, Governor Baker said, “Raising awareness about Alzheimer’s and dementia is key to supporting the Massachusetts families who are impacted by this horrible disease. This legislation will enhance efforts to train frontline caregivers on recognizing and treating dementia more effectively, and work with families of loved ones to prepare for and manage the effects of Alzheimer’s.”

Like many of you, I know about this issue all too well because, in addition to leading EOEA, I’m also a care partner for my mother, who is 88 years old and has Alzheimer’s. I’ve seen firsthand the challenges and stress that dementia can bring – both for the person with the condition and for those of us caring for them. However, being a care partner for someone with Alzheimer’s also brings opportunities and rewards.

I’m so proud to live and serve in a state that is such a leader in the Age and Dementia Friendly movements. Where our elected leaders and residents alike seize the many opportunities to support and enrich the lives of older people – recognizing how much they continue to contribute to our own lives and communities.

Want to get involved in making your community more welcoming to people with dementia?

Dementia Friends Massachusetts offers a one-hour information session on what dementia is and the simple things that you can do to support people living with the disease in your community. Find out more about attending a Dementia Friends information session.