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University of Iowa News Release


Dec. 19, 2011

Iowa law school offers class to the public on Alzheimer's Disease and the law

The American population is aging rapidly as the baby boomers start to turn 65 this year, and medical research suggests that more and more of them will suffer from Alzheimer's Disease and other dementias that affect memory, thinking, and behavior as they age.

A colloquium this spring at the University of Iowa College of Law will examine the challenges posed by these developments to law and public policy. The public will be able to view colloquium sessions via the internet during the spring semester. It will feature some of the country's top experts and will be coordinated by Josephine Gittler, professor of law at UI, and Kathleen Buckwalter, professor emerita of gerontological nursing at UI. They will also conduct some sessions. The 13 weekly class sessions begin Thursday, Jan. 12.

"Americans over the age of 65 now make up nearly 13 percent of the total population, and their number is expected to more than double by 2050," says Gittler. "And Iowa has one of the largest percentages of elderly residents in the country."

Gittler said that as older people with dementia lose their ability to make decisions, they are vulnerable to financial exploitation, abuse, and neglect.

"And they often require costly care over a period of years," she says. "This year, the public cost of caring for dementia patients will total an estimated $183 billion, jumping to more than $1 trillion by 2050."

Sessions will be live streamed via the internet and videos and podcasts will be available on the website of the National Health Law and Policy Resource Center at the College of Law.

The sessions will address such public policy and legal issues as:

*Substitute, or surrogate, decision making for older persons who lack the capacity to make decisions regarding financial matters and health care due to dementia, as well as other causes.

*Financial exploitation, abuse, and neglect of older persons, including those suffering from dementia.

*The financing, organization, and provision of long term care for the elderly with dementia and other persons with long term care needs.

*The regulation of nursing homes and other facilities and institutions providing care for older persons suffering from dementia.

There is increasing awareness of the need to address the problems arising from dramatic growth in the aging population and the dramatic rise in Alzheimer's. Earlier this year, President Barack Obama signed the National Alzheimer's Project that calls for an "aggressive and coordinated national strategy" to combat the crisis of an aging population and the rise in Alzheimer's and other dementias. Similarly in Iowa, the Iowa Alzheimer's Disease Response Strategy was passed to direct the development of a state strategy that responds to the needs of Iowans with dementia.

For further information see National Health Law and Policy website:

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Josephine Gittler, professor of law, 319-335-9046,; Tom Snee, University News Services, 319-384-0010 (office), 319-541-8434 (cell),