LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – During the most recent General Session lawmakers passed a law creating the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Advisory Council.
It was created to update the state’s action plan on Alzheimer’s and dementia-related diseases.
Gigi Gabriel remembers when her mom was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s.
“I just stared out the window, I could hear both of them crying. Like I knew this was going to be the diagnosis but you’re never ready for that diagnosis,” Gabriel said.
That was 10 years ago and she and her dad have been taking care of her mom since. At the time Gabriel was 28 years old, had kids of her own, and a job. But all of that went stagnant after her mom’s diagnosis.
“I was jealous they could still live their life, you know they still had the ability to do whatever they wanted but my choices were really around my own family and then my mother,” Gabriel explained.
She hopes when the council convenes much of their efforts and discussions will be centered around at-home caregivers.
“And I’m hopeful the task force will understand the need we have and continue to have and hopefully look forward about what’s going to happen with caregivers in Arkansas because caregivers are drowning,” Gabriel said.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association of Arkansas, there are approximately 93,000 caregivers of Alzheimer’s in the state.
David Cook is the President of the Arkansas chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and says keeping loved ones at home is a growing trend. He wants to be able to add more education and training for those who take on that responsibility.
“We need to kind of look at just what ways we do support those family caregivers, getting them the education and training that they need,” Cook said.
Cook said the state’s current plan needs to be updated with more current information from research and continue addressing the issues of public awareness, training and the workforce, access issues, and adding to family caregiver support.
Currently, in Arkansas, there are approximately 58,000 people dealing with Alzheimer’s and the Alzheimer’s Association projects there will be 67,000 cases in Arkansas by 2025.
“It has created a public health crisis and the crisis is already here so it’s good to see this move by the state,” Cook exclaimed.
Gabriel hopes more action will be taken with this plan since she feels not much came from the 2011 version.
“Even just in 10 years I feel as though anything has changed and that’s really sad,” Gabriel said.
The council will meet for the first time on September 22 and will have a final report due to the Governor’s Office by October 1, 2022.