The Pennsylvania Department of Aging (PDA), in partnership with the Pennsylvania Commission for Women, joined the Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley and Greater Pennsylvania Chapters for a virtual event focused on Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias and their impact on women.
Secretary of Aging Robert Torres gave opening remarks during the virtual event, which also featured a commission member’s personal story of a loved one who was diagnosed with the disease, the disproportionate impact of Alzheimer’s on women and other health disparities, and the warning signs of the disease and next steps to take.
“There are 280,000 people aged 65 and older who are living with Alzheimer’s in Pennsylvania, and that number is expected to increase as the aging population continues to grow. Not only does Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias disproportionately affect women, but women are more often caregivers for family members who are living with the disease,” Sec. Torres said. “By knowing the facts and the impact of the disease, we can create a Pennsylvania that is dementia-friendly and engage our communities to promote a better understanding and awareness. I want those who are living with the disease or who are caregivers to know that we are with you, and we will keep working and advocating on your behalf.”
PDA has been collaborating with the Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley and Greater Pennsylvania Chapters on initiatives that include conducting community forums and needs assessments in rural communities; providing education and outreach to health systems, public health centers and clinicians aimed at enhancing dementia care; and developing new online training for facility-based staff. As part of its State Plan on Aging, the department is also partnering with the two chapters to train the network of Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) care managers and person-center counselors to help them effectively interact and work with individuals living with Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders in all stages.
“We know that women are often at the forefront of our fight against Alzheimer’s and related dementia. They are generally caregivers to their loved ones as well as women being two-thirds more likely to develop Alzheimer’s versus men. The Alzheimer’s Association Greater Pennsylvania Chapter is proud to work closely with the Pennsylvania Department of Aging and the PA Commission for Women to provide critical information to women in Pennsylvania, so they know they are not alone in dealing with the challenges of Alzheimer’s,” said Jen Ebersole, director of State Government Affairs, Alzheimer’s Association Greater PA Chapter.
“I am happy to have participated in this event and shared my family’s story. Together, we can create awareness, support patients and their families, and end Alzheimer’s,” said Michelle Zmijanac, commission member and Alzheimer’s Association community representative.
“The Pennsylvania Commission for Women was honored to partner with the Alzheimer’s Association and the Pennsylvania Department of Aging to host this event,” said Moriah Hathaway, executive director of the PA Commission for Women. “We know that women are at the epicenter of the Alzheimer’s crisis and wanted to help provide resources to women and their families throughout the Commonwealth.”
PDA has partnered with the Jewish HealthCare Foundation, the license holder for Dementia Friends Pennsylvania, to work with the department and its Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders (ADRD) Task Force to empower Pennsylvania’s communities to become informed, safe and respectful of individuals living with dementia as well as their families and care partners. This work aligns with several goals of the Pennsylvania State Plan for ADRD and the department’s four-year State Plan on Aging of ensuring a network of age and
dementia-friendly providers and communities throughout Pennsylvania.
The department’s ADRD Task Force – established in 2018 – has focused on early detection, diagnosis, and treatment; in November 2020, the task force’s annual forum highlighted racial disparities and inequalities. The task force recently formed education subgroups to address education for consumers, families and caregivers; financial exploitation education; physician education on starting conversations and moving forward after initial diagnosis; and continued focus on engagement in underserved communities.
Learn more about the various programs offered by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging here, the resources available from the Alzheimer’s Association here, and more about the PA Commission for Women here.