News 12 at 11 / Friday, July 19, 2014
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- It's the first glimmer of hope in a disease known for whittling it away. Georgia's going on the attack to battle Alzheimer's Disease. This year Georgia released its first state-wide dementia plan.
A gerontologist who helped create the plan says dementia is a growing problem that's only going to get worse.
It's a journey through uncharted waters with no sign of a cure. It's one Janeabeth Wells knows all too well.
"Mom was diagnosed a little over four years ago. She was 67 years old," Wells said. "Now she's starting stage 7, which is the final stage of Alzheimer's."
Alzheimer's is cruel disease where the person you know and love disappears right before your eyes.
"The hardest part is knowing that she's still here with me, yet I have absolutely no relationship with her mentally anymore at all. I've lost my mother while I still see her physically every single day," Wells reveals.
As the population ages, stories like these are becoming more common than not. Dementia has grown 400 percent over the past couple decades, turning into one of the biggest issues facing Georgia today. Experts are calling it a looming national public heath crisis.
Dr. James Bulot is a gerontologist who helped create the state-wide plan. He puts it this way.
"If we had 250,000 people with a particular disease in Georgia right now, we would have public committees, we would have hearings, we would have all kinds of work being done to address it," Dr. Bulot said.
Now, Georgia's finally taking those steps. The new state-wide plan is redesigning the way Georgia treats dementia patients from the ground up. It's aimed at improving services, safety, treatment, housing, and public education.
"Our systems were never designed to serve that many people," Dr. Bulot admitted. "[The plan] doesn't have a time frame attached to it, and the plan isn't meant to be set in stone. So, as technology changes, as our knowledge changes, as research changes, the state plan will also change as well."
This year the General Assembly created a statewide Alzheimer's registry for research and planning. It's also raising the bar for Adult Day Care facilities by creating the ability to license them to protect against physical abuse and financial exploitation.
"If it raises awareness so people understand the disease and how terrible it is, and that we really need to do something about it, that to me is the most important thing," Wells said.
It's the first step of a battle Georgia is determined to win.
That really is just the tip of the iceberg. The plan also has promising blood tests for early detection and recommendations to help Alzheimer's patients stay in the workforce longer.
We've attached a link to the entire plan for you to read.