COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) - Alzheimer’s disease touches the lives of millions across the country, in Ohio an estimated 220,000 people are living with it today.
Some estimates show that number will triple by the year 2050, according to lawmakers who say Ohio is not in a position to deal with that very well right now.
On both sides of the aisle state politicians are calling the state an embarrassment when it comes to having a plan to deal with an increase in the population with Alzheimer’s.
Rodney Blough is an example of that growing population. He went from being a 70 hour work week executive to working zero hours when he was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s and Lewy Bodies Dementia.
“I’ve certainly seen the effects of the diseases both in terms of memory loss, cognitive reasoning ability and so forth,” said Blough.
It has been a year since he was diagnosed.
Blough has accepted his prognosis quickly and moved onto advocating for people like him alongside his wife Jennifer.
He says he has no fear of what will eventually happen to him, and is focusing on the positive things he can be doing now while he still has most of his faculties.
He purchased things he’s always wanted, done things to live in the moment and experienced things with loved ones who will cherish the memories long after he loses his.
And even though he has no fear as he is living it up, as he describes it; he is concerned for the impact his diseases are having, and will have, on his family.
“The apprehension that I have is for my wife, my children, because they have some responsibility of taking care of me that they didn’t used to have,” said Blough.
Jennifer has taken on the role of caregiver, and describes a different side to Rodney’s free-wheeling lifestyle some could envy.
“We’ve adapted our kitchen to having some blackboards where I keep his schedule for the week,” said Jennifer. “Now I also have to write, ‘today is Monday; today is Tuesday’.”
Rodney cannot be told directions and expected to remember them anymore. Things must be written down or recorded on video so he can watch them back for visual clues.
He tells me that life expectancy after a diagnosis like his is 6 years, and that he hopes to outlive that.
Blough says he still has much to do to raise awareness, and make a difference.
Meanwhile, his wife says the stress of caring for him is high.
With a grim smile, she admits that she “puts on [her] game face,” when she leaves the house. She needs to call him throughout the day to make sure he is okay, and stay in contact with his numerous doctors.
When she gets home, it’s time to prep for the next day before nearly collapsing with exhaustion.
The couple cannot stand the fact that Ohio has no plan in place to help people like them going through something like this.
“Having the resources and the infrastructure here in Ohio is critical for not just rod and i to live our lives well but for other people,” said Jennifer.
That concern is shared by State Senators Steve Wilson and Kenny Yuko who are jointly sponsoring a bi-partisan bill that would create a study group that would provide feedback on a 5-10 year plan to address the growing Alzheimer’s crisis in Ohio.
“Every other state in the Union has a plan on how to handle this crisis,” said Wilson. “Ohio does not have a plan. Ohio’s gonna have a plan.”
There are not many things Ohio is dead last in, but this is one of them.
Yuko points out that nothing is going to change that. Simply put, Ohio missed the boat on putting together a plan and you can’t un-ring that bell.
But Yuko and Wilson say Ohio can learn from other’s mistakes and use the best of other State’s plans while avoiding the pitfalls they exposed.
The bill itself still needs to go through the normal legislative process, and is starting off on a promising foot as it has already been assigned to a committee.