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California's Ten-Year Alzheimer's Plan Gets Results

California's State Plan for Alzheimer's Disease was an ambitious effort to deal with the challenges faced by many seniors and families in the state.

"Among the approximately 3.3 million seniors in California are more than 588,000 people living with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias," reported the booklet that outlined the state's goals ten years ago. "California also is home to 1.1 million family members who provide daily care for people with Alzheimer's a progressive, fatal brain disease for which there is no cure."

The plan, which covered 2011 through 2021, had six main goals: eliminate stigma; ensure access to high quality, coordinated care in the setting of choice; establish a comprehensive approach to support family caregivers; develop an Alzheimer's proficient, culturally competent workforce; advance research; and create a coordinated state infrastructure that enhances the delivery of care.

"Progress was made on all fronts," Susan DeMarois, director of California Department of Aging, told The Good Life.

"Alzheimer's and dementia are more in the mainstream now," she said about the goal to eliminate the stigma associated with Alzheimer's.

DeMarois said that there was now a state task force that is focused exclusively on family caregivers, and new laws provide caregivers with paid family leave.

Also, the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) Program will help pay for services so those over 65 years of age or disabled can stay in their own homes.

The IHSS authorizes services such as housecleaning, meal preparation, laundry, grocery shopping, personal care services, accompaniment to medical appointments, and protective supervision for the mentally impaired.

"There has been a tremendous investment in the workforce," said DeMarois about the plan's goal "to develop an Alzheimer's proficient, culturally competent workforce." The effort has focused on training physicians in the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer's.

The state is very involved in advancing Alzheimer's research, according to DeMarois.

"We have invested money in Alzheimer's research since the 1980s," she said, noting that both Governor Gavin Newsom and his predecessor, Governor Jerry Brown, have increased funding in this research.

"Typically, the funding goes to the University of California system, Stanford and USC," said DeMarois, adding that there are many institutions competing for the funding "that are all excellent. We are fortunate in California to have so many."

Since the 1980's, much of this funding has been collected from taxpayers who check the box on their tax form to authorize a donation to Alzheimer's research. So far, $30 million has been collected from the donations of state taxpayers, according to DeMarois.

The New Strategic Plan

Now that the California's State Plan for Alzheimer's Disease has run its course, the California Department of Aging is focusing its efforts on its Strategic Plan 2021-2024.

"The new report has ten recommendations," said DeMarois. "There's a big focus on the workforce, healthy living and positive aging.

"It picks up where the other one left off," she added. "I would say it's more comprehensive. It also reflects the changes in our healthcare system. It focuses on home and community-based services to assist people in the beginning stages of the disease.

"It also works to be more inclusive of Latinos, African-Americans, women and members of the LGBTQ community," she said. "We know that among Latinos and African-Americans there is a higher risk of Alzheimer's disease."

DeMarois also noted that about two-thirds of those with Alzheimer's are women.

"We will particularly focus on Californians who are at greater risk of the disease," she said. "We want to reach people earlier."

More is now known about Alzheimer's since the first report was drafted more than ten years ago.

"We know heart disease and diabetes are contributors to Alzheimer's disease," DeMarois said, stressing the importance of diet and exercise. "The new focus is on modifying the risk factors for everyone."

The new report includes "The Master Plan for Aging's Five Bold Goals for 2030," which are:

• Housing for All Ages and Stages – Target: Millions of new housing options to age well.

• Health Reimagined – Target: Close the equity gap and increase life expectancy.

• Inclusion & Equity, Not Isolation – Target: Keep increasing life satisfaction as we age.

• Caregiving that Works – Target: One million high-quality caregiving jobs.

• Affording Aging – Target: close the equity gap and increase economic sufficiency.

To read the California Department of Aging Strategic Plan 2021-2024, visit and click on "Download the MPA Full Color Report" in the right-hand column.


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