SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Most of us know someone who battles Alzheimer’s. It may be a loved one or a close friend that takes care of someone with the debilitating disease. Gov. JB Pritzker signed several bills into law Monday to improve the lives of seniors.
Illinois is the first state to require medical professionals to have training on diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s.
“Alzheimer’s is a vastly underdiagnosed disease, leaving far too many victims and their families maneuvering the changes in their lives without any help,” said Gov. JB Pritzker.
There are currently 230,000 people with Alzheimer’s in Illinois. However, most patients don’t receive a diagnosis early enough for the best treatment plan.
“Early detection is key to treatment,” said Rep. Kathleen Willis (D-Addison). “By working with all healthcare professionals on increasing their training for early screening, we hope to see better outcomes for families impacted by this disease.”
Providing the best care with early diagnosis
Training all adult healthcare providers about diagnosis, treatment, and care of Alzheimer’s is a personal mission for Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton. Like many, Stratton became the primary caregiver for her mother during her final years of life battling the disease.
“Her healthcare providers never detected the signs of Alzheimer’s until it had already advanced. We were all totally taken off guard,” Stratton said.
The law won’t take effect until January 1, 2023. However, sponsors and visitors to the Illinois State Fair like Chris Lemke hope the change can help people live longer. Lemke says she was lucky to have her mother alive for 100 years.
“That was certainly a gift for people to be alive that long, to see all the generations, to enjoy life and do things. That’s what we’d like to see for everybody,” Lemke said.
Stratton explained women make up two-thirds of the caregivers in the United States. However, women also make up two-thirds of those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
“So this is a matter of equity and it’s a matter of lifting up Illinois’ women,” Stratton said.
Improving resources for seniors
Pritzker also signed a bill into law extending the Alzheimer’s scratch-off lottery ticket through 2025. The funds go towards care, support, education, and awareness of the disease. Illinois has raised $1 million since the scratch-off ticket was created last year.
“To ensure that no one is left without the medical care that they need, it is important that we are providing ample resources to organizations that help those with Alzheimer’s,” said Rep. Natalie Manley (D-Joliet).
Many seniors also became comfortable with virtual learning during the pandemic. A new law allows people to take an online defensive driving course instead of an in-person test.
“Illinoisans 55 and over can easily access the instruction that they need, not only to stay safe on the roads but also to reduce their vehicle insurance premiums,” said Rep. Dan Brady (R-Bloomington).
The governor later signed a bill requiring long-term care facilities to ensure families can virtually communicate with loved ones during a public health emergency. Under the new law, facilities and hospitals must facilitate at least one call between residents and their family during emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Social isolation during the pandemic, especially those first few months, was detrimental to mental well-being of a lot of our long-term care residents,” said Sen. Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park). “Should the state ever face a disaster like that again, this new law will ensure those residents have a line of contact to their loved ones, whether it be a phone call or video call.”
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