Pilot Program Provides Help To Seniors In Crisis

San Diego County officials will consider ways to expand a response program for Alzheimer’s patients, after supervisors Tuesday heard an annual report on overall efforts to deal with the disease and the growing number of people it affects.

The Alzheimer’s Response Team operates in East County.

Under the program launched in June 2018, a trained social worker — after being informed by either law enforcement or paramedics — makes an initial visit within three business days to a person with dementia and helps stabilize their situation.

Kimberly Gallo, director of county aging and adult services, said the response team has handled 70 calls and made 60 visits, and its support teams have open 25 cases to provide families with additional support.

Along with accepting the report, the supervisors’ unanimous vote included directing Chief Administrative Officer Helen Robbins-Meyer to find ways for more response programs in the county.

The response team is part of the county’s Alzheimer’s Project, which began in 2014 in collaboration with nonprofits such as Alzheimer’s San Diego, as well as San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and research organizations.

Board Chairwoman Dianne Jacob said when the county launched the initiative five years ago, some thought it was impossible.

Alzheimer’s disease is the third-leading cause of death in San Diego County, and cases are only growing, Jacob said.

“We’ve come a long way, but have a long way to go,” she said. “We are facing an epidemic, one that’s taking a devastating toll on families.”

Within a decade, the lifetime cost of caring for loved ones in the county will be $52 billion, Jacob said.

She credited Gov. Gavin Newsom with making Alzheimer’s and dementia- related diseases a statewide priority, starting with a task force chaired by former California first lady Maria Shriver.

Nick Macchione, director of the county Health & Human Services Agency, said that in 2015, more than 84,000 adults 55 and older in the county were living with a form of the disease, adding that “projected numbers in the future are alarming.” He said the city of El Cajon had the highest number of dementia-related illnesses in 2015.

According to the report, more than 115,000 county residents 55 and older are projected to be living with some form of dementia by 2030, a 36 percent increase from 2015.

Other Alzheimer’s Project report highlights include promising research, other county programs to help patients, hospitalization and funding options. The full report is available online.

— City News Service

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