Governor signs bill into law that will provide support for Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers

Updated: May. 26, 2021 at 9:46 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Mississippi will soon start offering a different kind of support for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients and their families. It’s the kind of support that could buy them more time at home.

Jimmy Kaigler was a United States Air Force Captain, served in Vietnam, awarded a Bronze Star and later was President and CEO of Memorial Hospital in Gulfport. His dementia diagnosis came in 2015.

“It’s the hardest thing any of us have been through, watching him go from this guy who was selfless, put his family first always, was always the first person to greet you whether he knew you or not. And to see that leave him and just kind of become... you knew it was somewhere,” said son, Port Kaigler. “You could see it every now and then in his eyes. It’s a terrible disease.”

They were pleased to be connected with a respite care facility in Oxford that gave their mom a break a few days a week.

“It wears on the caregiver,” noted daughter, Lee Ann Stubbs. “As much as they love them, it’s hard and it’s hard on the families.”

Jimmy Kaigler died in December. But shortly after, a bill to offer support to caregivers was named in his honor.

“It’s going to be extremely helpful,” said Stubbs. “Around the clock care for somebody with dementia... to pay somebody, it’s definitely available. But it gets really expensive. It’s hourly. And for somebody like us, it’s not in our budget to be able to do that.”

“It’s a game changer,” added Kaigler.

Dr. Katherine Pannel helped lobby for Senate Bill 2221′s passage. She says it will fill a needed gap for many families.

“They wouldn’t qualify for Medicaid but also weren’t at an economic level for services they would need to take care of their loved one,” explained Pannel.

She said that it will be a three year pilot program serving 60 families each year. But she expects it to expand.

“A program that provide[s] assistance, whether it be homemaking, patient care, meals or just respite care where the caregiver can get out and take a break,” added Pannel. “This will buy time for their loved ones to stay at home.”

And that’s what so many families aren’t able to afford otherwise. To read the bill signed into law, click HERE.

Benefits will be available starting July 1, 2022.

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