The number of Oklahomans living with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to reach 74,000 by next year, a 20 percent increase over a decade.
But progress in care and treatment of the disease is not keeping pace, according to a report released Monday by a governor-appointed task force that studied the impact of Alzheimer’s disease in Oklahoma.
"This is the public health threat of the 21st century,” said Mark Fried, a task force member and executive vice president of the Oklahoma and Arkansas chapters of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Fried said relatives and other caregivers provide more than $1 billion in unpaid care to loved ones with the disease in Oklahoma. Many caregivers say they’ve lost work to care for their loved ones.
The task force made recommendations, including:
• Creation of a statewide information and referral system for caregivers to learn about community services, adult day care and nursing home care for patients.
• Requirement that medical school students learn more about diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.
• Creation of a student loan forgiveness program for medical school students specializing in geriatrics and practicing in Oklahoma.
• Increased daily reimbursement rate for adult day care services, and increased number of locations in the state.