I spoke with Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts this afternoon about her work on the state Alzheimers plan, what she calls a "living document" meant to guide and coordinate Rhode Island's efforts to care for those with Alzheimers and those who care for them.
You can read the plan here (.pdf). The highlights? The group broke the state's needs into a few categories, including supporting caregivers, the Alzheimers' related workforce, research, legal issues (e.g, a volunteer guardianship program), long term care facilities, and access to health care.
She told me the working group had just met to prioritize its recommendations and "get to work" on them. Topping that list: helping caregivers connect with each other and other resources, such as better access to "respite care" (finding someone else to care for your loved one so you can take a break) and increasing awareness about the kinds of workplace programs that are available to help caregivers.
Plans are great starting points, of course, but they mean little if they're forgotten on a shelf, only to join the growing pile of studies and plans produced by so many state commissions, committees, and work groups. When will families see the tangible benefits of this work? I asked her.
Roberts said that over the next few months, families should start to notice some more resources - such as a new Spanish-language support group for Alzheimers caregivers. But she was quick to point out that the plan focuses not on creating new government programs but enhancing or tweaking programs already in place and raising awareness of what's already available. For example, she said, Rhode Island has a caregiver respite program called "CareBreaks," but not enough caregivers know about it and it doesn't necessarily help in an emergency (say you get called out of town, or have to deal with a crisis at work). So the idea is to increase awareness about the program and other, privately funded programs out there as well as add some emergency services.
If you're caring for a loved one who has Alzheimers or have been diagnosed with it yourself, you're invited to participate in the work of rolling out the state plan by providing feedback, which you can do by emailing the Lt. Governor's office. Then check out the web site of the Alzheimers Association of Rhode Island, plus this new web site for caregivers.