Dingell meets with advocates, caregivers in honor of June being Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

Dingell, whose district encompasses Wayne and Washtenaw counties, has worked since her election in 2014 for long-term care.

“My No. 1 priority in Congress is long-term care; I said that when I was coming in,” Dingell said. “My stepfather had Alzheimer’s and I watched what it did to my mother, and the lack of research, the lack of medication, the lack of assistance, the guilt and the toll that it takes just really raised awareness for me of what Alzheimer’s does to a family.”

Dingell said her stepfather became violent due to his Alzheimer’s and she had to stage an intervention and tell her mother that she could not do it alone.

“The first night in long-term care, he got violent and threw a basket and broke a window,” Dingell said. “This is hard stuff, but we need to talk about it and make it real for people.”

Jennifer Lepard, president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Michigan Chapter, representing the Downriver and Dearborn communities, said over 180,000 people in Michigan are facing Alzheimer’s disease and caregivers cannot handle it alone.

“It is vitally important that the community continue to discuss Alzheimer’s,” Lepard said. “I think that one of the things I’ve felt the most frustration about is watching the caregivers go through it alone. You see these people that have been married for 30 or 40 years and they say: ‘Well she’s my wife and I’ll take care of her.’

“They don’t know what they are signing up for. This is not a short-term illness that you’re going to get through in six months to a year. It’s going to be eight years or 10 years, and you’re aging, too. If I had a magic pill, it would be to get caregivers to understand that you can’t do this by yourself; you’re going to need help.”

Dingell agreed, adding that “there is a lot of attention given in Washtenaw County, but we need to discuss it in the Downriver areas as well.”

With Alzheimer’s cases developing every 67 seconds, Dingell said, people need to rely on their communities to raise awareness.

“There are nearly 90 families during this event that will never be the same,” Dingell said. “You need to take action and encourage your members of Congress to invest. We try to encourage everybody you know to talk to people they know in the other districts about it; then we can find solutions.”

Roger Bushnell of Allen Park knows firsthand how important community is when discussing Alzheimer’s.

“We are fortunate, we have good relationships with area churches and area schools and find a lot of good volunteers that way,” Bushnell said. “We also find volunteers just because they want to give back or have had a family member live with us that have passed away and they want to continue to work with us.”

Bushnell has not only served on the board of directors for the Alzheimer’s Association, but also is the executive director of Maple Heights Retirement Village in Allen Park. Bushnell became involved with the Alzheimer’s Association after his father’s diagnosis and later became involved with Maple Heights after both parents had been diagnosed.

His experience with Alzheimer’s has made him passionate about Alzheimer’s research.

“I think that we have to make this a national priority,” he said. “We have to continue to make it a national priority to see change. It’s a multiprong approach. We have to look at it from a research and development angle, as well as how to take care of people that are currently going through it.”

Dingell is married to former U.S. Rep. John Dingell, a Democrat who retired from Congress at the end of 2014.

“I know I’m luckier than nine-tenths of the people in this country and I am lucky that John Dingell (who will be 90 years old in July) still has his brain, but it’s very difficult to navigate the system to find help,” Dingell said, adding that Medicare and Medicaid are outdated.

“We have 10,000 people turning 65 every day and they are, thankfully, living longer, and we want to make sure (they have) great lives. We’ve got a system that’s broken. You can’t navigate it. It’s designed for institutions, not to help people age.”

Dingell is worried that the country doesn’t want to deal with long-term care.

“We have an aging population, which is great that people are living longer, but we don’t have the resources that we need,” Dingell said. “So we have to talk about it in our communities. How can we volunteer? How can we support? There are just a ton of things that we need to be talking about. We need to be having conversations like this in our churches and places that we gather.”

It is estimated that by 2025, the number of people over the age of 65 with Alzheimer’s will go up by 7.1 percent.

“We need to support this,” Dingell said. “I think health care, no matter who is elected president, we’re going to have to discuss health care next year, and this needs to be a part of that agenda. I’m committed. We just need to get others on board.”

Dingell is a co-sponsor of House Resolution 1559, The HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act, which would provide Medicare coverage for planning services following a diagnosis of dementia, and H.R. 5073, the EUREKA Act, which would create incentives for finding treatments to prevent, alleviate or cure Alzheimer’s.

SOURCE / Reference :http://www.thenewsherald.com/articles/2016/07/02/news/doc57752ee3f19c5666453816.txt

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