Task force seeks improvement for Alzheimer's care

PORTLAND — By the best estimate, family and friends provide about $2.2 billion worth of unpaid care to people with Alzheimer's disease in Oregon each year. That's a number equal to the hole in Oregon's budget, and it's not likely to improve anytime soon.

In fact, say Alzheimer's experts, the number of patients will grow — estimates put the number at 110,000 by 2025, a 69-percent spike in cases in just over a decade, as baby boomers begin to grey.

To help Oregonians prepare for that increase, a statewide task force unveiled a proposal Monday that focuses on caregivers, state government and the improving quality of care.

The task force is made up of experts in aging populations, physicians and lawyers.

The group has the support of the governor and state legislators, and is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' national rollout of its National Alzheimer's Project Act.

"We all need to roll up our sleeves and confront Alzheimer's disease now," said Dr. Jeffrey Kaye, a member of the task force and director of geriatric neurology at the Portland Veterans Administration.

The most salient element of the project's goals is to require all caregivers, including family, to get training on dementia and the responsibilities of representing someone with the condition. People in the latter stages of Alzheimer's disease often require in-patient psychiatric treatment and round-the-clock care in a secure setting.

That's not a financial reality for most Oregonians, who are instead left with the choice of requesting a civil commitment of a family member or acting as caregivers themselves. The people who choose to do so aren't required to receive any training

"Family members are thus often appointed as guardians with no training or orientation regarding ethics or the required duties," according to the report.

The proposed solution: By January 2015, Oregon will make training mandatory for anyone appointed to a guardianship position within 90 days of their appointment.

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