STEVENSVILLE — Donna Poole, a Stevensville resident and Alzheimer’s disease advocate, will join an estimated 100 members of the public as they meet with legislators Thursday, Jan. 30, to discuss training standards for health care workers.
Poole not only saw the disease in her role as founder of Arcadia Assisted Living LLC in Chester, but in her own family with a father who suffered from the illness and passed away at 76.
At the top of her legislative wishlist will be mandatory training for health care professionals who serve the elderly but lack the proper background in Alzheimer’s disease.
“The state needs to hear we need to build a dementia-capable workforce and anyone who works with these patients needs to be properly trained,” Poole said. “There’s a bill set to be introduced for home care agencies that would require that. Currently, there’s no requirement for a home care employee to have dementia training, yet data shows one in 10 people over 65 years old has it.”
Other objectives set forth by the Maryland Alzheimer’s Association include increasing public awareness, early detection and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, increasing access to home and community-based services, and enhancing the quality of care in residential settings.
Poole recalled how her father was misdiagnosed several times before the accurate diagnosis of dementia, and eventually Alzheimer’s disease, was confirmed.
“This is a spectrum disorder, and the length of time one can have this disease can vary from a few years to 15 or 20 years,” Poole said. “One might start with mild memory impairment in the beginning and continue on with life to people who forget to turn the stove off. There are many new drugs by the Food and Drug Administration, and there are up and coming drugs in new trials.”
Poole also said there are curable dementias that could be treated in cases of a thyroid disease or infections that could lead to such behavior.
For caregivers, the task of taking care of a loved one at any point on the spectrum also is challenging.
Poole said that unique perspective also is vital to discuss with legislators in order underscore the need for a support system.
On the federal level, Congress passed the BOLD Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act, which directs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to strengthen the public health infrastructure across the country by implementing effective Alzheimer’s interventions focused on public health issues. That means increasing early detection and diagnosis, reducing risk and preventing avoidable hospitalizations. It will accomplish this by establishing Alzheimer’s and related Dementias Public Health Centers of Excellence, providing funding to state, local and tribal public health departments, and increasing data analysis and timely reporting.
“What makes this disease so difficult is that the memory of the person you love is fading away,” Poole said. “It’s like their brain is on rewind, and they forget the most recent events first and their memories of the past are stronger. It could be a mom they love that doesn’t remember her own children.”
More information on symptoms and data on Alzheimer’s disease is available at the Alzheimer’s Association at www.alz.org.