FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A bill that recently passed the Indiana General Assembly aims to tackle the financial, medical and emotional burden of dementia.
H.B. 1177 was passed with bipartisan support and signed off by Gov. Eric Holcomb on Apr. 8. The bill requires the state’s Family and Social Services Administration’s Division of Aging to develop a strategic plan for dementia in Indiana. The division will be tasked with looking into issues like educational resources on dementia, improving quality of care for patients and decreasing disparities in care for ethnic and racial populations.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Indiana was previously one of a few states without a statewide dementia plan. The organization also estimates dementia has cost more than $1 billion a year in Medicaid costs, which has risen due to an aging population and COVID-19.
H.B. 1177 has received praise from various statewide agencies who interact with dementia patients on a regular basis.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Hoosiers living with dementia and their caregivers especially hard, exposing gaps in the system that left them especially vulnerable,” said Natalie Sutton, executive director, Alzheimer’s Association Greater Indiana Chapter.
Aging and In-home Services of Northeast Indiana COO Maureen Widner hopes the Division of Aging will devote enough resources not just for dementia patients, but also for caregivers. She estimates there about 35,000 caregivers in northeast Indiana, many of whom are loved ones of someone with dementia who is juggling this responsibility with everyday life.
“A lot of times people don’t even identify as a caregiver,” she said.
Widner also hopes this bill will streamline communication between agencies in their efforts to help dementia patients and their loved ones.
“[It will] allow all of the different entities that are out there in the community to better coordinate services and really improve care for the individuals and their caregivers who are so important in this equation,” said Widner.