Doctor explaining results of MRI scan of brain to senior patient. Diagnosis of diseases for elderly people. Examination of brain, detecting stroke, dementia, head injures or neurological disorders.
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Rhode Island recently unveiled a five-year update to its state plan to improve access to dementia care as well as improve quality of life for those living with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, and their caregivers.

The Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders 2024-2029 State Plan was developed by the Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Disease Research and Treatment. The council includes researchers, advocates, clinicians and caregivers, including the Rhode Island Assisted Living Association and the Rhode Island chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

The council was tasked with issuing recommendations on policy and evaluating state-funded efforts in research, clinical care and programs; coordinating dementia-related workforce training; and coordinating facility operational plans to recognize and manage people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

The state plan includes goals related to strengthening partnerships and policies, building a diverse and skilled workforce, measuring and evaluating data, and engaging and educating members of the public. Among the strategies included in the plan are creating accessible neighborhoods with walkable sidewalks, greater access to healthy food options, and safer public spaces for people living with dementia. 

The plan calls for a workgroup to focus on elevating and addressing health equity issues in dementia care and developing action plans to promote age- and dementia-friendly resources and information.

The state received a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention five-year grant of $500,000 per year to address its Alzheimer’s and dementia needs. According to the Rhode Island Department of Health, 23% of the state’s population in 2020 is aged more than 60 years, and approximately 24,000 of those older adults have received Alzheimer’s disease diagnoses. That figure is expected to increase 13% over the next few years.

Thirty-seven percent of assisted living residents in the state have a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia, according to the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living.

A state plan to address Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias was adopted in 2013 and updated in 2019. In alignment with the CDC’s Healthy Brain Initiative Roadmap, the revised plan includes goals, objectives and strategies to guide the Rhode Island Department of Health ADRD program and its partners in continuing to support people living with dementia as well as their caregivers.

The council will create an action plan to prioritize activities and identify “champions” to implement the recommendations.

“Under this plan, we’re connecting federal, state and local government resources to build strong communities where people with dementia can thrive,” Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos (D) said in a statement

Alzheimer’s disease and related health conditions have been called “major public health issues” in the state by Utpala Bandy, MD, MPH, interim state health department director. 

“For that reason, this state plan takes a comprehensive approach,” Bandy said in a statement. “This includes strategies related to lifestyle modifications, health system and healthcare professional engagement, and the use of data to drive decision-making and tackle health disparities.”