New York Legislature: Need To Raise Awareness Of Alzheimer's Disease
New York State Senate and New York State Assembly yesterday a resolution aimed at raising awareness of the importance of early detection, education and care related to this brain disorder.
The resolution declared November 2007 as Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month and November 13, 2007 as Memory Screening Day in New York State.
State Senator Martin J. Golden (R-C, Brooklyn), chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, and Assemblyman Steven Englebright (D-Setauket), chairman of the Assembly Committee on Aging, introduced the resolution. It was initiated by the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA), a national nonprofit organization based in New York City that focuses on providing optimal care to individuals with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, and their families.
Currently, an estimated 330,000 New Yorkers have Alzheimer's disease.
Eric J. Hall, AFA's chief executive officer, applauded the efforts of the two chairmen in spearheading the resolution.
"This recognition by the New York State Legislature is a major step toward eradicating the stigma and denial that continues to surround Alzheimer's disease. Only by raising awareness will more people understand that they should not hide from warning signs. Early diagnosis and utilization of community support services can ultimately improve quality of life in the face of this heartbreaking disease," Hall said.
He added that the declaration of November 13 as Memory Screening Day is especially significant, noting: "It will hopefully open the floodgates, encouraging people to seek free screenings if they note warning signs of Alzheimer's disease or, simply, if they want to learn more. These screenings are a great start toward education and care."
AFA initiated National Memory Screening Day in 2002 and has offered the event in collaboration with community-based organizations nationwide each November. Both National Memory Screening Day and Memory Screening Day in New York will be held on November 13 this year.
Last year, qualified healthcare professionals at about 700 sites from coast to coast, including more than 50 in New York State, provided free, confidential screenings to tens of thousands of people. The face-to-face screenings consist of a series of questions and tasks that can indicate memory problems. They do not represent a diagnosis; those with poor scores are encouraged to follow up for a full-scale medical evaluation.
The resolution called memory screenings "a safe and cost-effective intervention to direct at-risk individuals to appropriate clinical resources," and noted that "recent advancements in scientific research have demonstrated the benefits of early medical treatment for individuals with Alzheimer's disease, as well as the benefits of early access to counseling and other support services for their caretakers."
In presenting the resolution, Senator Golden noted that Alzheimer's disease currently affects an estimated five million Americans, with that number expected to triple by 2050.
"Now, more than ever, it is important that we bring attention to this disease and raise awareness and continue to search for a cure. We will and we must end Alzheimer's disease here in New York State and throughout the world," he said.
Noted Assemblyman Englebright: "As a society, we have yet to really acknowledge the impact of Alzheimer's disease on both the family and individual. One important step to blunt the toll that this affliction takes in health, dignity and financial resources is early detection. That is why I'm pleased to be working with the Alzheimer's Foundation of America in promoting Memory Screening Day on November 13."
The assemblyman also encouraged other state legislatures to follow New York's lead.
"We need Memory Screening Day in every State of the Union. "It's good that New York State will be doing its part," he said.
Coincidentally, the passage of the resolution occurred on the anniversary of the death of President Ronald Reagan, who died on June 5, 2004 after a decade-long battle with Alzheimer's disease.
On a national level, President Reagan first declared November as National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month in 1984, and subsequent presidents have issued similar designations.