A popular retirement destination, about 20% of Florida’s population is over the age of 65, a growing demographic which Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez said is welcome but comes with an added responsibility. To balance its placement as the state with the second-most cases of Alzheimer’s, Florida has earned the top ranking for its funding of care for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
Núñez spoke at a press conference in Ocala Wednesday and shared highlights from the DeSantis administration’s senior care accomplishments. She said of the 4.4 million senior citizens in Florida, there are over 580,000 people battling Alzheimer’s.
“We know that the fight is far from over,” Núñez said. “So we’ll continue to fund, we’ll continue to support, we’ll continue to innovate. We’ll make sure that we provide those support systems for families that are living with this terrible disease.”
The Framework for Freedom budget Gov. Ron DeSantis signed in June provided record funding for Alzheimer’s, according to Núñez. The budget includes more than $65 million for Alzheimer’s, an increase of $12.5 million compared to last year’s budget.
The new budget invests an additional $9 million to expand services provided by the 17 Memory Disorder Clinics and Brain Bus. Another $4 million increase is intended to provide services for more seniors as part of the Alzheimer’s Disease Initiative. Five million dollars went to increased services in the Community Care for the Elderly and Home Care for the Elderly programs, which provide meals, caregiver support and home modifications to help seniors maintain an independent life in their homes.
One million more dollars went to the Florida Alzheimer’s Center of Excellence (FACE), announced in 2022, which provides resources to caretaking families of people with Alzheimer’s. About 800,000 people in Florida are providing unpaid care to a loved one with Alzheimer’s, according to Michelle Branham, Secretary of the Florida Department of Elder Affairs.
Núñez said FACE was the final pillar of the five-point action plan the governor created when he took office. Cari Eyre, Director for Dementia at the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, said the FACE program is currently serving about 250 families and plans to continue growing.
“The most important thing for me to leave with you is that no family’s needs are the same. Each family brings a unique set of challenges, and an equally unique set of resources to the table,” Eyre said at the press conference. “And the FACE program has been given the opportunity to meet those needs in a personal, dedicated and flexible manner.”
People interested in learning more about the resources FACE provides can call 1-800-96-ELDER.
Florida also battles Alzheimer’s through partnerships and collaborations with researchers, according to Branham.
“I’m so proud to be an enthusiastic partner in the groundbreaking work happening in our great state of Florida, where pioneering initiatives, collaborative spirit, and investment in this disease are propelling us closer to a future where Alzheimer’s is no longer a devastating reality,” Branham said.
Christina Ramos, executive director and administrator of Touching Hearts at Home, a local in-home care company, also spoke at the press conference, tying the disease to a face with the story of her grandmother, whose Alzheimer’s diagnosis has changed her family’s world and eventually inspired the start of Touching Hearts at Home.
“It doesn’t just affect the person with the diagnosis, but also their family and their support system,” Ramos said. “I don’t know if any of you realize how difficult it is to grieve the loss of someone still living, but every day is a wild roller coaster ride. I know so many of us live it daily.”