Alzheimer's advocates say Alabama must do more - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Alzheimer's advocates say Alabama must do more

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HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

The state of Alabama has a long way to go to better address the needs of Alzheimer's patients, even as those needs become more acute and patients' numbers are expected to increase dramatically, advocates said.

On Tuesday, the Alabama Alzheimer's Task force held town hall meetings in Madison and Huntsville to solicit input from caretakers, advocates and community leaders.

Marcie Atkins of Decatur said she found little understanding as her husband John spent years succumbing to early onset Alzheimer's which first hit him in his mid 50s.

"To watch a man with a PhD  [who] worked in special forces and various different areas in the military to not be able to tie his shoes, and to move through that process with him was very difficult," she said.

Brandi Medina with the Alzheimer's Association said the situation is poised to become dramatically more serious as millions of Baby Boomers approach the age of greatest risk for the disease, and the people who care for them, many of them relatives, suffer unending strain.  

"More and more people are being diagnosed. Just in Alabama there's over 91,000 with Alzheimer's and over 300,000 unpaid caregivers," she said.

Task force members have until September to issue a report on the situation so new legislation can be prepared for the next state legislative session.

A big part of the challenge they said, is educating leaders, doctors, police and families about what they're dealing with, especially when Alzheimer's dementia is so often misattributed to something else. "Maybe family dynamics," said Chanda Crutcher with the Alzheimer's Task Force. "'Mom has always been mean. Dad has always been forgetful.' But the more you know about the disease, you can get to the root of the problem." 

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