Garcia Introduces Legislation to Improve Alzheimer Patient Care in NJ

Assemblyman Sponsors Three Bills to Ensure Efficient Care in Hospitals, Clarifies Law Regarding Death Certificates and Expand Scope, Training of Home Health Care Providers

(TRENTON) – Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia has introduced a three-bill legislation package concerning Alzheimer patient care in New Jersey.

“Nearly 200,000 residents are living with Alzheimer’s disease in New Jersey,” said Garcia (D-Hudson). “We must do more to help residents living with Alzheimer’s and their families.”

Garcia said the intention of his first bill will enable hospitals to better care for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders, and help prevent these patients from wandering away from hospitals.

The bill (A-4100) provides that a hospital is to require a health care professional, at the time of taking a medical history or performing a physical examination of a patient admitted to an emergency room or the hospital, to include a notation in the patient’s medical record indicating, if applicable, that the patient has Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders. The notation is to be prominently displayed in the record.

“Managing a patient with Alzheimer’s requires open communication and full disclosure with their physicians and medical staff,” added Garcia. “This bill will help hospitals provide more efficient care for Alzheimer patients by ensuring they have what they need to know right in front of them.”

Another bill (A-4188) clarifies that Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders may be listed as a secondary cause of death on a certification of death, provided that: (1) the deceased person is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s diseases or a related disorder, and (2) it is determined, in accordance with currently accepted medical standards and with a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that Alzheimer’s disease or related disorder was a significant contributing cause of the person’s death.

The bill would not require Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders to be listed as a secondary cause of death on a death certificate, and the bill provides that no person may be subject to criminal or civil liability or professional disciplinary action under current statute for listing or failing to list Alzheimer’s disease or a related disorder as a secondary cause of death on a certification of death.

Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders describe forms of dementia characterized by a general loss of intellectual abilities of sufficient severity to interfere with social or occupational functioning.

Garcia states in the bill that although data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that 83,494 people dies form Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders in 2010, studies suggest that the true number of deaths attributable to these conditions may be greater than 500,000. This discrepancy is due in part to the way deaths are recorded on death certificates.

Often, the primary cause of death will be identified as an acute condition such as pneumonia or heart failure. However, Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders cause a decline in brain function that may lead to problems with feeding and swallowing, which can put the person at risk for poor nutrition, dehydration, and infection, and may significantly increase the risk of developing, and exacerbate the effects of, acute condition that is ultimately listed as the primary cause of death on the person’s death certificate.
The last bill, pending introduction, will expand the scope of training for home health care providers who deal with Alzheimer’s patients.

“We are grateful to Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia for crafting these bills. His sustained leadership on advancing issues that are critical to the growing Alzheimer’s community is vital and appreciated”, said Cary Lopez, Executive Director of Act Now Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness and educating the low-income communities about Alzheimer’s disease.
Kristine Allen, President of Act Now Foundation adds that, “Assemblyman Garcia recognizes the unique threat posed by Alzheimer’s disease and these bills are an integral part of making Alzheimer’s disease a health priority in New Jersey.”

The introduced bills were referred to the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee.