SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — Senator Susan Collins made a plea for more research for Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia in South Portland Friday.

She was the keynote speaker at the Southern Maine Area Agency on Aging's annual conference,  drawing hundreds of people including health care professionals, caregivers, and local business leaders.

The Senator says Alzheimer's is one of the greatest health challenges of our time and we need to start treating it as a public health challenge.

"Just as we need a coordinated, all hands on deck approach to tackling the opioid epidemic, we need that same kind of effort when it comes to Alzheimer's Disease," Senator Collins said.  

The Senator also addressed the critical need for workers in Maine who care for patients with Alzheimer's and Dementia.

She says one solution is to expand the geriatric programs at colleges and universities in the state.

“Another step that we can take when it comes to healthcare providers is to tailor some of our loan forgiveness programs so that people who not only serve in an underserved area, which is much of the state of Maine, but go into fields where they’re going to be working with our seniors they get a certain percentage of their school loans forgiven,” she said.

The number of workers who care for Maine's seniors exceeds the demand. That's in part due to low wages.

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In regards to the issue of finding ways to provide better pay for eldercare workers, the senator suggested looking at the reimbursement levels under Medicaid and Medicare programs to see if they are adequate to allow the healthcare facilities to pay higher wages.

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