AUGUSTA – In Maine, roughly 29,000 people over the age of 65 are living with Alzheimer’s, and that number is expected to grow, according to Maine health officials.
Some are trying to tackle the degenerative brain disease.
“You can still live a good life, there’s a lot you can do,” said Denise Kinney, an Alzheimer’s Association volunteer advocate.
It’s not every day the Maine State House is filled with people wearing purple. On Thursday, those dedicated in the fight against Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia gathered for an advocacy day.
“I’m trying to put a face to the disease, and possibly reduce that stigma and get people help sooner rather than later,” said Kinney. She was diagnosed 3 years ago with early onset dementia, at 52 years old.
A former nurse, she recognized the signs like memory loss, and decided to do some good by becoming an Alzheimer’s Association advocate.
“Advocacy work has helped me a lot, getting out there and fighting for legislation,” said Kinney.
As part of that effort there’s a bill sitting in the Appropriations Committee right now that would create a new position in the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to coordinate dementia programs.
That’s according to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Margaret Craven, who said the person in that position would be, “applying for grants so that we can have money to compensate children or spouses who have to stay home to take care of their loved one.”
She has a personal connection – her husband and mother.
“My mother had dementia for at least seven years before she died, and that means that I lost her seven years before she died,” said Rep. Craven.
Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention leaders highlighted how not only does Maine have the highest median age, but many older Mainers live alone, meaning symptoms go unnoticed.
As part of the “Healthy Brain Initiative”, health officials are focused on getting medical staff prepped for early detection.
“So that when greater numbers of grant dollars come down the line, we have the necessary infrastructure in place,” said Nirav Shah, MD., the director of the Maine CDC.
More about how to connect with resources is on the Alzheimer’s Association website .