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South Carolina's new plan for Alzheimer's care

With hundreds of thousands in South Carolina suffering from Alzheimer's, DHEC has now updated its plan for improving care.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) on Thursday released a new plan for treating Alzheimer's disease and related dementias (ADRD) in South Carolina.

DHEC says the Statewide Plan to Address ADRD serves as a blueprint for how health care systems, long-term care providers, state agencies, community partners, and individuals and families impacted by dementia will continue to address the growing crisis of ADRD throughout South Carolina.

Specifically, the new five-year plan lists five main goals:

  • Improving knowledge of the disease;
  • Supporting policy and advocacy efforts;
  • Improving quality of care;
  • Improving, expanding and developing multidimensional support and health promotion programs for professional and family caregivers and care partners; and 
  • Improving access to data and resources statewide.

Taylor Wilson, director of government affairs with the Alzheimer's Association of South Carolina and chair of the SC Department on Aging’s Alzheimer's Resource Coordination Center.

DHEC, in partnership with the South Carolina Department on Aging ’s Alzheimer’s Resource Coordination Center (ARCC)...

Posted by SC DHEC on Thursday, March 30, 2023

Wilson says it's the first time the state's plan has been updated in 14 years. That's part of the reason she teamed up with SCDHEC to create the updated plan to address critical needs.

"In 2009 when the last plan was drafted, we didn't have a way to diagnose Alzheimer's with any certainty unless it was an autopsy," Taylor said. "Now, we can identify all three hallmarks through imaging."

Taylor explains there are huge gaps in care for those suffering from the disease in South Carolina. 

"It's estimated that over 111,000 are living with Alzheimer's or a related form of dementia," Taylor said. "We know that the cost of this disease is so severe for families that are paying for it that there are people who have lost their houses, there are people that have lost inheritance."

"How do we stand in the gaps that we identify in the data and through prevalence when there are no resources in that community until it can be built up?" Taylor asked. "That's truly what this plan is doing, how do we stand in the gaps until we can build the infrastructure to support families facing a dementia diagnosis in South Carolina."

The updated plan is good news for people like John Hilton and his wife, Sharon. He lost his mother at the age of 78 to Alzheimer's.

"The burden on the family is just tremendous, very disruptive of life," John Hilton said. "Obviously, you care for parents and you do anything for them, and whatever is required for them. It's a disease that deteriorates very quickly and they need help, so whatever our society can do to get ahead of it would be great."

Sharon Wilson says she hopes these steps will help to eventually find a cure for the disease in the future. 

"There's gonna be a day where someone asks me, 'What was Alzheimer's?' in South Carolina, and I can tell them it doesn't matter because it's not here anymore."

A link to the full report can be found here.

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