Capitol Hill Takes on Alzheimer's disease

Senator Collins in Washington

It was my honor to attend a special event on Capitol Hill this week. The Alzheimer’s Association launched a new set of Dementia Care Practice Recommendations on Wednesday with the help of Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Catherine Cortez-Mastro (D-NV). The event was held in the storied Kennedy Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office Building where important congressional investigative hearings have been held on the Vietnam War, the Supreme Court nomination of Clarence Thomas and the sinking of the Titanic in 1912.

Senators Collins and Cortez-Mastro spearhead bipartisan efforts to pass Alzheimer’s and dementia care legislation in Washington. Together they recently championed the RAISE Family Caregiver Act and the BOLD Dementia Infrastructure Act, two pieces of legislation that provide new and important support measures for families affected by dementia. On Wednesday, both senators spoke about their personal connection to the disease and the ease with which they garnered bipartisan support for these pieces of legislation. It seems that more support for those coping with Alzheimer’s is one thing that crosses the divide in Washington.

“Of the top ten leading causes of death in the United States, Alzheimer’s disease stands alone as the only one that cannot be prevented or treated effectively,” said Senator Collins. “The effort to combat Alzheimer’s requires a unified effort not only to find a cure for this disease, but also to provide care and support for families and communities. By working together, we have advanced public policies that will rewrite the future of this disease.”

Sara Terry in Washington

Brookdale was honored to be a part of the day’s agenda with Sara Terry, senior vice president of resident and family engagement, making remarks on the importance of these new guidelines. At Brookdale, we are proud to see the new guidelines focus on a person-centered approach which is tightly woven into our longstanding foundation of dementia care. As the nation’s largest memory care provider, we are passionate about providing tailored care to each of our residents. You may remember the story of Dorothy Plummer, the 103-year-old Brookdale resident living with dementia. Despite her age and diagnosis, she still enjoys bowling, dancing and playing the harmonica. Thanks to Brookdale’s person-centered approach to care, she is thriving. Our hope is that every one of the 5.5 million people living with this disease in America has access to the same quality of care. The Alzheimer’s Associations’ new guidelines will help us get there.

The recommendations represent work by some of the best dementia care researchers in the country and they cover person-centered practices in eight critical areas: Diagnosis and Detection, Assessment and Care Planning, Medical Management, Information, Education and Support, Ongoing Care, Staffing, Supportive and Therapeutic Environment and Transition and Coordination of Services. They represent an interesting refocus on the services needed to  provide care and support for those 5.5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s and their families for the Alzheimer’s Association, an association Brookdale proudly supports. While the organization’s mission is to find a cure and end Alzheimer’s, these recommendations reflect a strong new positioning toward a person-centered approach to the disease. It’s a great step forward in our country’s critical conversation about Alzheimer’s and dementia care.

I applaud the Alzheimer’s Association on these new recommendations, and I have faith that every memory care provider will study these guidelines and make a real commitment to meeting this gold standard of dementia care. At Brookdale, our focus on person-centered dementia care is a commitment to honoring the individual resident as the unique person they are, consistently assigning care partners, and to the provision of meaningful, purposeful programming in a supportive and intentional environment. The new guidelines will ultimately raise the bar for dementia care providers. I believe in that old quote that a rising tide lifts all boats. 

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