Loved ones, caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients needed for lobbying effort

DES MOINES — Advocates of the Alzheimer’s Association from across Iowa will meet at the state capitol on Monday to ask state legislators to support two priorities that will improve early detection, diagnosis and care.

Lauren Livingston, spokeswoman for the organization’s Iowa chapter, says they’ll urge lawmakers to strengthen Iowa’s Dementia Services Network by placing a dementia service specialist at each of Iowa’s six Area Agencies on Aging.

“What these positions can do is really help families to navigate care planning, help them find local resources to help support them through their journey with dementia,” Livingston says. “They can even perform memory screenings and ultimately, help families keep their loved ones at home longer and reduce those costs of care for families and the state.”

Another key priority for the Alzheimer’s Association and other agencies like the American Cancer Society is to ensure Iowans have access to what’s called biomarker testing, which determines if someone is at greater risk for a given disease.

“One example of that could be a PET scan, which is something that is used to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, however, it’s very expensive and is not well covered by insurance,” Livingston says. “So what this bill would do is have insurance coverage of these biomarker tests to be able to diagnose people earlier, which would cut costs for the families and the state.”

Iowans who are interested in dementia issues can be a part of the lobbying effort in Des Moines on Monday.

“You can visit alz.org/iowa and right at the top there is a link, you can click on to register,” Livingston says. “You can join us at the State Historical Building starting at 11 a.m. We’ll have lunch and training so you can get up to speed on what these bills are and how to talk with your legislators, and then we’ll walk up to the Capitol at 1 p.m. and meet with the legislators.”

Advocates will convene in the capitol rotunda and meet with their legislators from 1 to 4 p.m. on Monday.

Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. In Iowa, more than 66,000 people have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, and there are nearly 100,000 family and friends caring for their loved ones with the disease.