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Congress Recognizing Need to Help Those with Early Onset Alzheimer's

A hearing of the Senate Special Committee on aging is looking at bipartisan legislation that would make changes to the Older Americans Act to give individuals younger than 60 with a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s a chance to access support programs.

Senate Bill 901, which is called “Younger-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease Act” was introduced in late March by a number of Senators who crossed party lines to support the amendment to the Older Americans Act. According to McKnight’s Senior Living’s article, “Bill would aid those with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease,” Senate Bill 901 was introduced by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), chairman of the committee, Senator Bob Casey, ranking member and Senators Doug Jones (D-AL) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV). In the House of Representatives, the bill H.R. 1903 introduced was introduced by Representatives Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Pete King (R-NY), David Trone (D-MD), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Maxine Waters (D-CA), and Chris Smith (R-NJ).

Nutritional programs, supportive services, transportation, legal services, elder-abuse prevention and caregiver support have been available through the OAA since 1965. However, under the current law, only individuals over 60 are eligible.

“These programs would make a huge difference in the lives of individuals living with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease, who don’t have support services available to them,” said hearing witness Mary Dysart Hartt of Hampden, ME, a caregiver to her husband, Mike, who has young-onset Alzheimer’s.

About 200,000 individuals aged less than 65 have younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease, according to hearing witness Clay Jacobs, executive director of the Greater Pennsylvania Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, North Abington Township, PA.

“The need to reach everyone affected will grow significantly in the coming years,” he said.

Senator Collins was a founder and co-chair of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease. She noted that she and Casey are leading this year’s OAA reauthorization efforts.

Senator Collins said she was also introducing the “Lifespan Respite Care Act” with Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) Tuesday “to help communities and states provide respite care for families.” This legislation would earmark $20 million for fiscal year 2020, with funding increasing by $10 million annually to reach $60 million for fiscal year 2024. The program lets full-time caregivers take a temporary break from their responsibilities of caring for aging or disabled family members.

For family caregivers, which included Senator Collin’s own mother, the greatest need is for respite care. Many Americans take on the task of caring for a loved one, sacrificing their own lives and sometimes their careers. Making respite care for caregivers a national priority, would be a great help to communities nationwide.

Reference: McKnight’s Senior Living (April 3, 2019) “Bill would aid those with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease”

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