Alzheimer’s, dementia patients in Florida get additional help, thanks to Gov. Ron DeSantis | Editorial

Daniel A. Varela/dvarela@miamiherald.com
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Here’s a sobering number: 580,000 Floridians are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Any Floridian who has been robbed of a loved one by these sinister diseases knows that the collateral damage spreads through an entire family, especially in the lives of immediate caregivers.

Gov. Ron DeSantis is aware of the disease’s impact. He knows we all know someone — our parents, or grandparents, the parents of a friend or a neighbor — suffering from dementia. Florida has the second highest number of Alzheimer’s cases in the country.

Florida has always been a haven for retirees, the favored victims of these horrible diseases, which means that state also should be in the forefront of innovation and research.

That’s why Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis deserves a shout-out for committing more state funds and consolidating services for those dealing with the disease.

“Alzheimer’s afflicts the individual who has it, but it also has an enormous impact on families and caretakers, really unlike any other disease that we face.” He’s right.

To address a need, DeSantis announced two powerful tools in the fight last week in Broward County.

First, the establishment of the Florida Alzheimer’s Center of Excellence (FACE). Run through the Department of Elder Affairs, FACE will focus on enhancing the infrastructure available to support affected seniors, families and caregivers.

Today, an Alzheimer’s diagnosis comes with little obvious support for the individual and the family, except for knowing that the road ahead is bleak. There is no cure.

Too often, those caring for loved ones suffering from dementia live in a lonely world, unaware there is existing help available. FACE will make it easy by umbrella-ing the services available.

The center is the final part of the Dementia Action plan, established in 2019. FACE will also partner with medical researchers conducting trials at the University of Florida, Florida International University and Florida Atlantic University.

DeSantis unveiled his Alzheimer’s initiatives at the Broward Health Center, where he came to sign into law Senate Bill 806, which will require healthcare officials to receive additional education on early detection and prevention of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

This is all good news, but there’s more: DeSantis said the fiscal budget funding that begins July 1 includes a $12 million increase for the Alzheimer’s Disease Initiative Program, totaling $52.3 million. It also provided the Community Care for the Elderly Program an additional $9 million, reaching $91.7 million in funding.

Yes, we know this can be seen as an election-year gift from the governor, but these new tools and additional funding are vital. They can enhance the lives of people trapped by this disease, and the people who love them most.