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SD's Care Programs for Dementia Patients on Verge of Lifeline

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Tuesday, March 7, 2023   

A bill headed to the governor's desk aims to boost South Dakota programs that provide adult day services. Supporters say it is getting harder for families of those with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia to access this care. The Legislature recently gave final approval to a plan that sets aside $2-million to develop or expand programs that offer supervised care and enrichment services for these patients.

Erik Gaikowski, AARP South Dakota director, predicted the measure will remove a lot of stress for these individuals and family members who care for them. The group supported the it.

"The more money that we can put into these programs, the more caregivers can likely stay in the workforce or allowing those people that they love to stay in their communities and homes for longer, " Gaikowski said.

During testimony leading up to the bill's passage, supporters noted that South Dakota is down to just three adult day providers that contract with the state. Meanwhile, the state Department of Human Service had said while it does not disagree with the spirit of the plan, it suggested there were not enough specifics in directing the agency to administer the grants.

A number of family caregivers provided testimony during the hearing, including Richard Butz, whose wife has Alzheimer's. Appearing remotely, he suggested quality adult-day services can help keep the caregiver network from reaching a breaking point.

"Most caregivers are struggling with full-time care themselves, or a long-term care facility, where the energy of the staff is absorbed in providing for the activities of daily living," Butz said," leaving little or no time or energy left to provide life-enriching experiences. "

According to a 2018 report from a statewide working group, more than 17,000 people in South Dakota live with an Alzheimer's diagnosis. More than 38,000 serve as their unpaid caregivers.

Disclosure: AARP South Dakota contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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