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House of Representatives
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: March 5, 2021 09:45 AM
From: Representative Carrie Lewis DelRosso
To: All House members
Subject: Early Detection and Diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease and All Dimentias
In the near future, I plan to introduce legislation aimed at promoting greater public awareness of cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease and all dementias throughout Pennsylvania, and create a structure to unite patients and health care providers around cognitive concerns that will lead to an earlier diagnosis of this disease.
Alzheimer’s disease and all dementias is a growing public health challenge, placing extreme burdens on the 280,000 Pennsylvanians living with the disease and 500,000 Pennsylvania caregivers providing unpaid care for them. Detecting cognitive concerns early allows the best opportunity to receive better medical care, enhance health outcomes, plan for future needs and secure medical desires and wishes at a time that allows the individual to participate in decision-making when their cognition is least impacted. Even further is that the better dementia is managed, fewer complications from other chronic conditions arise, unnecessary hospitalizations from accidental injuries are avoided and the overall safety and well-being can be improved.
Yet despite all these benefits, only about half of people with Alzheimer’s or other dementia have been diagnosed. Among those seniors who have been diagnosed, only 33 percent are even aware that they have the disease.  This percentage is even greater in communities of color. One in ten Pennsylvanians aged 45 and older experience confusion or memory loss that is happening more often or is getting worse, but yet nearly half of them have not talked to a health care professional about it. Many factors contribute to low diagnosis that must be addressed to reverse these trends. Stigma, cultural differences, awareness and understanding, and the ability to obtain a diagnosis, manage the disease and access care and support services vary widely depending on race, ethnicity, geography and socioeconomic status. At the same time, health care providers cite the lack of diagnostic training, time constraints and lack of support, communication difficulties and fear of causing distress, lack of disease modifying treatment, stigma, and a health care specialist shortage, as reasons for why they are not detecting and diagnosing dementia as early as possible.
My legislation will call on the Department of Health - in collaboration with the Department of Aging and other public/private organizations - to establish an education program for primary care providers that will underscore the value of an early diagnosis of dementia for patients and their families, and provide them with tools necessary to assist in the detection, diagnosis and care planning referral. In addition, the legislation will increase understanding and awareness of cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia to the general public by incorporating information about the disease into existing public health outreach programs.
I encourage my colleagues to join me in supporting those living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, their families, and our primary care workforce who are on the frontlines of detecting and diagnosing this disease by co-sponsoring my legislation.

Introduced as HB1082