Alzheimer’s is focus of 2 new Massachusetts laws

Improving care for those with Alzheimer’s disease is the focus of two bills passed recently by the Massachusetts legislature and signed into law by Gov. Deval Patrick Aug. 5.

Senate Bill 2249, formerly Senate Bill 2165, is intended to make it simpler for families to address legal issues related to guardianship across state lines. Senate Bill 1882 calls for the development of guidelines to improve care for those with Alzheimer’s or other, related dementias when they are admitted to a hospital or emergency department.

“These measures are critical to providing the best care with the least amount of stress on families,” says James Wessler, president and CEO of the Massachusetts/New Hampshire Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, which supported the bills. “We have wonderful hospitals in Massachusetts, but not all staff is trained in the challenges of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s.” The measure is one of the first such in the nation, according to Wessler.

“We know that someone with Alzheimer’s or a related disorder can be at a disadvantage in acute care settings, based on both their inability to represent themselves and challenging behaviors that can be part of the disease,” says Brent Forester, MD, chairman of the MA/NH Chapter’s Medical-Scientific Advisory Committee. “This legislation will help acute care staff as they provide care. It has the potential to positively impact thousands of people.” Forester is director of the Geriatric Mood Disorders Research Program at McLean Hospital and assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Senate Bill 2249 attracted a coalition of organizations, including the AARP, and Senate Bill 1882 was supported by the Massachusetts Hospital Association, Wessler says.

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