LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – There is a new state law on the books in Arkansas that will give people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and their caregivers, more support.
Act 391 was signed into law by Governor Asa Hutchinson in March and creates an Alzheimer’s and Dementia Advisory Council, which would be a coalition of health experts, state agency officials, providers and caregivers ready to tackle the needs of Arkansans with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Kerry Jordan is an award-winning professor of nursing with 30 years of experience. She thought she knew everything there was to know about caring for patients with dementia.
Then it became personal.
“My dad is in the middle stages of dementia,” Jordan explained. “And my mother is also experiencing some cognitive issues.”
For more than three years, Kerry’s parents have lived with her.
“My eyes have been totally opened to an entire new world and I basically didn’t know what I didn’t know, in essence,” Jordan said.
Despite being very well educated in areas of care, she still found task of it overwhelming.
“I knew there was caregiver burden, but I didn’t realize how all-encompassing it was,” Jordan said. “It really does impact every aspect of your life.”
That’s why she hopes the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Advisory Council will give people like her a helping hand.
David Cook with the Arkansas Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association says the goal is to increase public awareness, offer more training and fix healthcare shortages. An area of special concern, Cook explained, is helping caregivers.
“Respite is a huge need among our population,” he said. “Caregivers often have burnout.”
“Not one time have I ever been asked, as a caregiver, how are you doing?,” Jordan added.
She noted there’s a good state plan for Alzheimer’s disease already out there.
“But I kind of see a plan as a car without wheels,” Jordan said. “It’s not going to go anywhere unless you have the push.”
This council, she says, could be the answer to helping aging Arkansans just like her dad.
Other goals for the council are increasing access to adult day cares and using more telehealth or telemedicine to reach people in rural areas.
There are about 90,000 caregivers in Arkansas who provide care for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia.