Wood explains his personal interest in the issue by citing circumstances of his wife’s family.

Missouri House Representative David Wood (R-District 58) from Versailles worked hard to craft House Bill 466. His bill targeted those caring for family members with Alzheimer’s lacking resources or insurance. The purpose of HB 466, according to Wood, was to provide compensation for a family member who could not simultaneously hold down a job and stay home with the Alzheimer’s patient.

Wood’s bill provided a path for family members to receive compensation for caregiving in the same way the MO Healthnet or Medicaid provides funds to pay outside caregivers. Assisting family members in caring for their patient provides the added benefit of long-term savings by keeping Alzheimer’s patients out of nursing home care until it becomes a medical necessity, not as last resort for those without adequate resources.

Wood explains his personal interest in the issue by citing circumstances of his wife’s family. During the last 25 years, 14 family members have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. “Fortunately, we [Wood’s extended family] had adequate insurance and finances to provide for family members to not work while caring for the patient. Not every family is that fortunate,” says Wood. Unfortunately, HB 466 did not make it out of committee and advance to become law. Other efforts have seen similar fates in the past two years. 

When HB 466 failed to progress, Wood turned his attention to a similar, but more comprehensive bill, Senate Bill 514, advancing through the Chambers and seemingly destined for a better result. According to Wood, SB 514 combines the basic elements of several disparate House and Senate bills into one Health Omnibus Bill.

SB 514 includes a path for family members as caregivers to be compensated, allows certain latitudes in off-label mediation use, protects the Department of Social Services from losing money because of these changes, and provides for a first-year pilot program for the first 300 families applying for the benefits.

In describing his own wife’s dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease, one man said, in the most graphic and poignant language, “She was lost in the corridors of her own mind.” Indeed, people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia lose their abilities to care for themselves and their surroundings. They may no longer remember how to heat or cool their homes and thereby risk their own lives. They may forget that boiling water or stove tops burn and harm themselves. They may be unable to keep track of whether they have eaten and eat obsessively or not at all. They often cannot sleep through the night, and they frequently cannot recognize their home as being safe, familiar places.

Caregivers for Alzheimer’s patients must be vigilant. They need education so that they understand what’s happening to the patient and know how to keep them safe and healthy. Caregivers also need support in order to protect their loved ones who may react as a small child, but have the size and weight of adults. Legislation such as HB 466 and SB 514 are measures designed to provide support to the afflicted as well as the caregivers. Equally important, these measures are better uses of health care dollars because the patient remains at home as long as reasonable and reduces the cost of nursing home care.