Letter: New Medicare benefit in 2017 helps Alzheimer’s patients plan care

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November is National Family Caregivers Month. This is important to me because every day I see individuals and families whose lives have been completely turned upside down by Alzheimer’s disease.

As a member of the S.C. Alzheimer’s Association Board of Directors and the owner of a home-care organization serving Lancaster, York and Chester counties, I have the opportunity to assist families in navigating through this horrible disease, but more help is needed.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are more than 300,000 unpaid caregivers for South Carolinians living with Alzheimer’s disease. When you’re dealing with cognitive loss, it’s especially important to ensure that caregivers have access to the information and support services that they need. 

A 2015 public health survey found that 12 percent of South Carolinians age 45 and over are experiencing confusion or memory loss that is getting worse. Nearly half need assistance with day-to-day activities, and over a quarter live alone.

Fortunately, Medicare is introducing a new benefit in 2017 to provide care planning when an individual is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. This care-planning benefit will also be available to caregivers, helping them understand the diagnosis, manage care and access helpful resources.  

I’m grateful to those S.C. congressmen who co-sponsored the HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act, which paved the way for this new Medicare benefit. And I’m hopeful that Sens. Graham and Scott and Congressman Mulvaney will continue to be sensitive to the needs of caregiving families in 2017.

Seth Zamek