CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Working with the state public health system will go a long way in better diagnoses and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease according to Sharon Rotenberry, the Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Association West Virginia Chapter.
That topic and more ideas about how to fight neurological diseases were talked about during Alzheimer’s Awareness Day in the state Senate on Tuesday. A proclamation was given on the Senate floor for the day.
Rotenberry said next week another resolution will be passed urging that the West Virginia Public Health Department recognized Alzheimer’s and Dementia as a public health issue. She said that would be a good step in the fight.
“We want to have the public health department at all levels with the best information in hand,” she said. “Try to encourage physicians and health systems to make diagnoses when appropriate.”
She added that the likelihood of having an accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and Dementia in the state is only 45-percent. 38,000 West Virginians suffer from Alzheimer’s, according to Rotenberry, but she said there could be more based on the inaccuracies of diagnoses.
Over 100,000 people in the state are providing care for loved ones with a neurological issue, said Rotenberry, as Alzheimer’s is one of the most expensive diseases. According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s website, 18.4 billion hours of care, valued at over $232 billon, are provided by family and other unpaid caregivers.
“There is nowhere to send families for resources or the testing is not there,” she said. “West Virginia is a neurological desert. We are trying to make family doctors more aware and to diagnose. Then at the public health level, have the information there at the health department.
“Nobody plans for Alzheimer’s disease in retirement or even earlier,” she said. “The workforce a lot of times, people are raising children and then they are tasked with caring for a family member with this disease.”
The 24/7 helpline for the Alzheimer’s Association is always available for more help and information at 800-272-3900. The association has plenty of information online at their website and anyone can request information mailed to them. Rotenberry said discussion will start building the infrastructure needed to fight the disease in West Virginia.
“We want to work with the public health system at the state level to make sure all people in West Virginia have access to it,” she said.
“People don’t talk about this disease. And now when they understand there is a way to go about making the plan for a loved one and that there are some things you can do to determine whether it Alzheimer’s disease or maybe something else that is going on with a loved one’s memory, when they know there are things out there to discuss, they will talk about it more.”