1. Whittaker, Sue
  2. Kay, Margaret

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The ANA strongly supports the following recently introduced legislation that will enhance the lives of seniors and their families. The Positive Aging Act of 2004 (S 2572 and HR 4694) would help seniors receive much-needed mental health services. Although approximately 10% of the elderly population suffers from dementia and 25% from clinical depression, seniors' access to mental health services is compromised by limits on health care benefits coverage, gaps in how mental health services are delivered, and shortages of mental health practitioners who serve the geriatric population. Supporters hope the bill will improve senior access to care by integrating mental health services into primary care, community settings, and geriatric care facilities. Additionally, it will include geriatric mental health professionals in existing grant programs and will establish advisory boards to ensure that the mental health needs of the elderly are not overlooked.


The Ronald Reagan Alzheimer's Breakthrough Act of 2004 (S 2533), introduced by Senators Kit Bond (R-MO) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), will invest in Alzheimer research, with the goal of reducing the number of cases of the disease by more than one-third by the middle of this century. An estimated 4.5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer disease-a figure expected to increase dramatically as the population ages. If enacted, the bill will also ease some of the financial burden on family caregivers by assisting with the costs of medication and care, as well as providing families with respite care, counseling, and training. This financial burden on families is substantial: 10% of Americans have a family member with Alzheimer disease, 70% of people with the disease live at home, and the average cost of nonreimbursed care for these patients is $12,500 per year.


The ANA also has put its weight into promoting the Family Caregiver Security Act of 2004 (HR 4095). This bill would offer hope to the more than 50 million Americans who provide care for chronically ill, elderly, or disabled loved ones by allowing qualified family caregivers to receive reimbursement for assisting with activities of daily living, such as bathing, transferring, dressing, and assisting with toileting. The nonreimbursed services these family caregivers provide are estimated conservatively at a market value of $166 billion annually. Furthermore, because 54% of these caregivers are between the ages of 35 and 64-prime wage-earning years-their efforts to tend to friends or relatives take an enormous toll on their own financial well-being and earning potential.


More information is available at the ANA government affairs Web site at