Dr. Heidi Wierman, director of geriatrics at Maine Medical Center, is scheduled to testify Wednesday at a U.S. Senate hearing on Alzheimer’s disease in Washington, D.C.

Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are driving demand across Maine and the nation for increased support for family and community caregivers, greater access to safe housing and transportation, and better training for health care providers who aren’t prepared for the onslaught, according to Wierman’s prepared testimony.

“Diagnosis and treatment of patients with dementia is not a part of clinical training for most providers and staff in many care settings,” Wierman wrote in her testimony. “It is critical that our primary care system become prepared to deal with cognitive assessment and care planning for patients with dementia and their families to try to avoid these crises.”

Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, chairwoman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, invited Wierman to speak.

“Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease that exacts a tremendous personal and economic toll on the individual, the family and our society,” Collins said in a prepared statement. “In addition to the human suffering it causes, Alzheimer’s costs the United States more than $226 billion a year, including $153 billion in costs to Medicare and Medicaid.”

Collins noted that annual costs associated with dementia are expected to skyrocket as baby boomers age, driving the tally to more than $1.1 trillion in 2050 if nothing is done to change its current spending trajectory.

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