The Florida Department of Elder Affairs recently announced the Dementia Care and Cure Initiative to spread public awareness about dementia and to help make Florida communities more dementia-friendly.
Florida ranks second in the nation in the number of diagnosed cases of Alzheimer’s disease. Department of Elder Affairs Secretary Sam Verghese said the Sunshine state needs to take the lead on dementia-related issues.
“We just passed New York in being the third most populated state now in the nation,” said Verghese. “When it comes to the percentage of elders, about a quarter of our population are there and we know by the nature of that, we’re going to see proportionally more of a volume of these issues. So it only makes sense that we are leading the way.”
The initiative will promote research efforts to find a cure and connect people with support services already available. The Department of Elder Affairs will engage with businesses, healthcare agencies and dementia care programs in individual communities around the state to help them become more accommodating to dementia related issues and earn a “Caring Community” designation from the state.
“It’s not just a healthcare related issue,” said Verghese. It really does effect the businesses locally in many ways.”
Elder Affairs staff are working to select their first pilot community for the initiative. That decision will come in October or November. Verghese says part of the aim is to help change the conversation when it comes to how society thinks about dementia.
“What we hear about dementia, and of course with Alzheimer’s being the largest of that, we hear that folks often feel like it’s a silent killer, said Verghese. “They’re in their own prison. They just don’t have a way of helping people understand what’s happening internally in a way that’s really in our vernacular now in society; that people just feel like they kind of go into a corner and they want to hide.”
The Department of Elder Affairs has $20 million in present funding for respite care for people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and Verghese says they’ve already made a request for additional money. Funding for the Dementia Care and Cure Initiative comes from the department’s existing budget allocation. The initial announcement was made at the annual Florida Conference on Aging in August.