Dementia care funding at risk in state budget

Money for 19 specialists to run out at year's end
Dementia care funding at risk in state budget

Specialists across the state who work directly with people with Alzheimer’s and dementia could lose their jobs unless funding is restored for them in the state budget.

Dementia care specialists are a position that was created just three years ago and have been acting as some of the front line resources for people and families dealing with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Jane Quinn has been nurse for 30 years, but she says even with her experiences, she struggled after her husband C.A. was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s two and a half years ago.

“It goes from being your husband who is very supportive and very comforting and caring to, at this point, it’s like I have a little boy with me when I go places,” Quinn said.

Quinn called on Joy Schmidt, who is Dane County’s dementia care specialist at the Aging and Disability Resource Center.

“You have a lot of guilt,” Quinn said. “Are you doing enough? Can I be doing more? What can I do? And she’s always been very supportive and you’re doing everything you can.”

Schmidt says that’s why she does her job.

“I love to help make this easier, make this journey easier for both the person with dementia and the family,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt is one of 19 dementia care specialists across the state who work with families and also train everyone from police to bank tellers to pharmacists on dementia. Funding for those positions runs out at the end of this year and was not re-authorized in Gov. Scott Walker’s state budget proposal.

Walker says he instead prioritized funding for those working in long-term care facilities in his state budget plan.

“The number one thing we heard people talk about dealing with long-term care was you can involve the specialist in help and attention, but if you don’t have direct caregivers on-site in long-term care and assisted living facilities, you’ve got major problems,” Walker said. “So that’s why we poured so much more into that.”

Aging groups are asking instead to put one specialist in every county at a price-tag of $3.5 million. Schmidt says that will pay for itself.

“If we’re able to keep two people living in the community for a year, it has paid for the position in our county alone,” Schmidt said.

Jane Quinn is one of 4,000 people Schmidt talked to last year.

“I have a very strong faith, I have the support of family, and still the support I receive from the ADRC and Joy in particular, I don’t know how I would have dealt with the situation if it wasn’t for her,” Quinn said.

Republican Rep. Mike Rohrkaste, R-Neenah, who chaired the state’s dementia task force, tells News 3 he intends to try and restore and possibly expand funding for the positions. At this point, he says that budget amendment would have bi-partisan support, but it’s unclear whether it could pass the finance committee.

The governor says he’d support that measure, as long as his funding increase for long-term care workers remains.