Breaking News
More () »

SC lawmakers looking to address rising Alzheimer's rates

About 120,000 South Carolinians 65 years old and older will be living with Alzheimer's by 2025.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina lawmakers are working to create a statewide plan to address what some are calling an Alzheimer's crisis. 

About 120,000 South Carolinians 65 years old and up will be living with Alzheimer's by 2025, according to the Alzheimer's Association. 95,000 residents are living with the disease currently.

The issue is personal to State Senator Katrina Shealy, whose husband was diagnosed seven years ago. 

“People see it, but you never know it until you live it," said Shealy. “It is a very personal disease for anybody that’s a caregiver.”

Shealy's proposal would task an advisory council with creating and implementing a new plan every five years. The first report would be released this fall. 

The council would get input from nearly a dozen agencies and medical organizations to find ways to combat the disease and get resources to those who need it. 

“We need to keep ahead of the situation, not always behind it," said Shealy.

The last statewide Alzheimer's plan was released in 2009. South Carolina Alzheimer's Association Director of Government Affairs Taylor Wilson said science has advanced greatly within the last decade. 

“There's more hope today that this is preventable, that this is treatable, that this does have an end, that science is gonna lead us there. And that's not reflected in the 2009 plan," said Wilson. 

According to Wilson, South Carolina is the third largest neurology desert in the country and only has 66 practicing geriatricians. 

“So looking at how do we increase access to clinical trials? How do we recruit more researchers to South Carolina? How do we improve clinical trial participation,” said Wilson.

Legislative Liaison for the State Department of Social Services Connelly-Anne Ragley believes this legislation will help inform the public about the disease and get resources to caregivers. 

“We've seen cases where family members locked someone inside of a home, um, and padlocked it from the outside because they're afraid that the adult, uh, would wander and get away from the home," said Ragley. 

Ragley added she hopes the plan will also address the need for Medicaid funded beds at memory care centers and training for law enforcement. 

The bill is being taken up by the Senate Family and Veteran's Services Committee on Wednesday. Rep. Mark Smith is sponsoring an identical bill in the House. 

According to the Alzheimer's Association, SCDHEC is releasing a statewide plan to address Alzheimer's and dementia later this month. 

Before You Leave, Check This Out