Statewide plan released to address Alzheimer’s disease and dementia

A statewide plan to address Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia was released Thursday.
Published: Mar. 30, 2023 at 4:56 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 30, 2023 at 5:49 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - A statewide plan to address Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia was released Thursday for the next five years with five main goals for how South Carolina plans to address the growing impact of the disease throughout the state.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control and the South Carolina Department on Aging’s Alzheimer’s Resource Coordination Center created the plan by publishing the South Carolina Statewide Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease & Related Dementia.

The plan serves as a blueprint for how health care systems, long-term care providers, state agencies, community partners and people and families impacted by dementia will continue to address the growing crisis of dementia throughout South Carolina, according to DHEC.

The plan outlines five goals, paired with specific objectives to help accomplish them. The goals include:

  • Improving knowledge, understanding and awareness of ADRD by educating and empowering all South Carolinians
  • Supporting policy and advocacy efforts that improve the health and well-being of all people in South Carolina
  • Improving the quality of ADRD care to ensure all people in South Carolina are able to access the resources, health care and support they need for reducing risks and all other issues related to ADRD
  • Improving, expanding and developing multidimensional support and health promotion programs for professional and family caregivers and care partners
  • Improving access to and coordination and use of ADRD data and resources statewide

After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention passed the Building Our Largest Dementia Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act in 2018, DHEC was one of 18 state health departments to receive funding.

The legislation is designed to increase early detection and diagnosis, reduce risks, prevent avoidable hospitalizations and support dementia caregiving.

As required under the CDC grant, DHEC’s Division of Injury and Substance Abuse Prevention began the process of developing the five-year statewide strategic plan in 2021.

At least 111,818 people are currently living with ADRD in South Carolina, according to the SC Alzheimer’s Disease Registry.

In 2015, South Carolina had the highest Alzheimer’s death rate in America, and it remains in the top 5 causes of death in South Carolina.

DHEC issued the following statement on the plan:

While we understand that the number of people impacted by ADRD increases every year, we hope that this plan will help create the infrastructure and accountability necessary to build dementia-capable programs and services for the growing number of people impacted. The objectives and strategies outlined in the plan will also allow DHEC and our partners to promote risk reduction and early detection and diagnosis of ADRD.

Several chronic conditions have been identified by experts as “modifiable risk factors” such as hypertension, diabetes, mid-life obesity, and smoking, and these conditions have been found to be associated with increased risk of cognitive impairment and possibly dementia. Evidence suggests that when people address these health factors in advance, they may be able to reduce the risk of dementia or delay by up to 40 percent.

The plan also addresses several ways we can improve access to early diagnosis. The CDC states that although there is not a cure for ADRD, early detection and diagnosis is still important. Having a formal diagnosis allows people living with ADRD to have access to treatments and support services, build a care team, and potentially have access to clinical trials.