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Roadmap for Better Approach to Dementia in Michigan

Researchers say understanding a loved one's dementia diagnosis can help preserve family relationships. (Lisa F. Young/Adobe Stock)
Researchers say understanding a loved one's dementia diagnosis can help preserve family relationships. (Lisa F. Young/Adobe Stock)
May 20, 2019

LANSING, Mich. – Dementia has significant impacts on the lives of families, employers, taxpayers and those living with the disease.

And dozens of stakeholders have a vision for making sure Michigan can respond to the challenges of the disease in the coming years.

The Michigan Dementia Coalition has released what's called a "Roadmap for Creating a Dementia Capable Michigan."

As co-chair of the coalition, Lisa Dedden Cooper, manager of advocacy with AARP Michigan, explains it presents ways to promote the well-being of people living with dementia and increase public awareness about brain health.

She says too often stigma creates barriers to discussing, diagnosing and living with dementia.

"A lot of folks really miss out on opportunities to make their lives better than they would be otherwise,” she stresses. “So often the fear and the stigma leads to people hiding their condition and really missing out on opportunities to live a better life.”

Roughly 190,000 Michiganders age 65 and older have Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia, and that number is expected to grow to 220,000 by 2025.

According to data from the coalition, 92% of adults believe Alzheimer's disease is a serious problem, and two-thirds of them personally know someone with dementia or another cognitive decline disease.

Cooper says part of awareness is understanding how dementia affects one's health.

"Many people we know with Alzheimer's have their memory impacted but some people, it’s their decision making, some people it’s their speech and for a great many people it ends up impacting their ability to walk, eventually to swallow," she explains.

The roadmap also recommends ways to address rising costs of care, and to ensure health care and long-term care systems are equipped to provide timely, accurate diagnoses and high quality services to people living with dementia.

Cooper says that includes ensuring dementia is recognized as a public health priority.

"We want to improve the communication and the knowledge that people have,” she states. “Individuals, families, health care providers all across the spectrum. And we think there's a lot of opportunity for us to do that in Michigan. "

Cooper adds that about 517,000 people in Michigan are caring for loved ones with dementia, and the roadmap suggests policies to ensure employers can help their workers balance caregiving responsibilities with their jobs.

Disclosure: AARP Michigan contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues, Livable Wages/Working Families, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI