“Certainly one of the primary reasons for this alarming statistic is those workers are not adequately prepared to deal with the issues specific to patient suffering with Alzheimer’s [and] dementia,” and become dissatisfied with their work, he said. “It’s a very challenging patient group.”
By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
Two bills to help improve care of Kentuckians living with Alzheimer’s disease have been delivered to Gov. Andy Beshear. One sets a base level of training requirement for direct-care workers who care for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients; the other creates a permanent dementia coordinator for Alzheimer’s and dementia services and supports across the state.
“Senate Bills 61 and 74 are going to have a direct and tangible impact on Kentuckians living with this disease, their caregivers and our workforce,” Mackenzie Wallace Longoria, director of public policy for the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Kentucky Chapter, said in a news release. “While we have a long way to go, these bills represent Kentucky getting on the path to becoming a truly dementia-capable state.”
Over 75,000 people are living with Alzheimer’s in Kentucky, and that number is expected to increase nearly 15% by 2025, to 86,000, according to the association.
SB 61, sponsored by Sen. Stephen Meredith, R-Leitchfield, would require six hours of dementia-specific training for home health aides and personal service aides who provide care to individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia in their homes and communities. The bill also requires three hours of continuing education annually.
It also says that care-giving staff at any agency that claims to offer dementia or Alzheimer’s care must have this training, or the agency will be fined. The bill does not apply to caretakers hired by individual families.
The turnover among caregivers in home care in 2019 exceeded 60 percent, Meredith told a Senate committee in January.
Longoria told the committee that one out of every three recipients of home care have some form of Alzheimer’s or dementia and that at this time, this is a “wholly unregulated part of the workforce.”
SB 74, sponsored by Senator Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, would establish the position of dementia services coordinator in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. The coordinator would manage the Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Council, be in charge of the state plan to address Alzheimer’s in Kentucky, and would apply for federal funding opportunities.
Alvarado and Longoria both noted at a February committee meeting that states with such coordinators have been able to increase efficiency and quality of their services. After Virginia established its coordinator in 2015, Alvarado said, it got more than $5 million in federal grants for dementia services.
The position is not yet funded, but Longoria said in an email that establishing the position in law is an important first step, along with revitalizing the council and mandating that the formal state plan to address Alzheimer’s in Kentucky be updated every four years.
“Step two will be pursuing a line item in the 2022 budget to secure the position for the future,” she said.
Alvarado suggested at the committee meeting that the health cabinet could redirect money to fund the position.