When Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton’s mother, Velma Wiggins, began to forget things, Stratton didn’t know the signs of Alzheimer’s, so her mother, as her mother’s chief caregiver, had no gauge for changes that would soon take place.
It wasn’t until he had sent his mother to Florida to visit his aunt that someone gave him the language.
“She lived with my family for about 13 years, and we didn’t know she was developing dementia. We didn’t know what the signs were, what to look for. We lost her to Alzheimer’s in 2016, and she died She wasn’t diagnosed until three years ago,” said Stratton, whose experience started a mission to help others care for Alzheimer’s patients.
That mission culminated with legislation leading to improved Alzheimer’s diagnoses, passed in the final days of the legislative session, now on the desk of the government’s JB Pritzker.
“In 2013, I put her on a plane to visit my Aunt Dottie in Florida,” Stratton said.
“Aunt Dottie is a social worker, and she and my mother grew up together. When my mom came back home, my aunt called me and said, ‘You know what’s going on, right?’ I said, ‘Actually, I’ No Know what is happening. She said, ‘Your mother has got all the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. You have to get him checked.’ And an expert confirmed it,” Stratton said.
“What was interesting was that I was regularly taking her to my doctor’s appointments, but neither her primary care doctor nor I knew the signs as her daughter.”
SB677 would make Illinois the first state to require training on the diagnosis, treatment, and care of Alzheimer’s for health care professionals as a condition for licensing. The one-hour course will include a continuation of pre-existing education requirements for physicians, nurses, social workers and others who see patients over the age of 26.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, only 45 percent of people living with Alzheimer’s are diagnosed, leaving more than half of those affected to plan for the future, access important resources available to families, or participate in clinical trials. opportunity is denied.
Alzheimer’s holds the dubious record of the most expensive disease in America – its cost is expected to reach $355 billion this year.
More than 6 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s – 230,000 in Illinois.
With a rapidly aging population, the number is expected to double by 2050, with nearly 13 million Americans suffering from the disease, and the cost reaching $1.1 trillion.
“Taking care of my mother was always an incredible honor, but it was also really challenging,” said Stratton, who partnered with the Alzheimer’s Association to advocate for the law.
“Caring is stressful. I knew there are many people like me who are caring for parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, and other family members with Alzheimer’s. So when I became lieutenant governor, The first thing I wanted to do was help people think about Alzheimer’s from the perspective of caregivers,” said Stratton, who in 2019 conceptualized the association’s #ThroughourEyes campaign.
Two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women, as are two-thirds of their caregivers. African Americans are 50 percent more likely to be diagnosed with the disease than whites; Latinx individuals, 33 percent more likely.
“It’s an issue that really affects women, and there’s an equity issue,” Stratton said.
“In marginalized communities, some may not have a primary doctor to help with this issue, which is why the law has social workers, home care workers and others regularly see,” she said.
The bill developed from a six-month listening tour around Alzheimer’s held across the state.
“It was very emotional to hear people across the state share about the same challenges I face: How do you continue to care for and care for your loved one? How do you find the energy to care for your children and your affected family member? How do you manage the financial stress of caring?” Stratton said.
In Study by the Alzheimer’s Association93 percent of primary care physicians agree that dementia care is a rapidly evolving area of medicine that will require continued training. And 50 percent said the profession is unprepared to meet that growing need for care.
During the pandemic alone, deaths from Alzheimer’s increased by 16 percent.
“I’m excited about this bill, and how it will affect lives. I think of my mom as just one person in my life who was living with this disease,” Stratton said. “And as hard as it was for her, I know she’s looking down and seeing the work her daughter is doing to improve the lives of families dealing with Alzheimer’s, and I know she’s smiling.” has been.”
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