CLEARFIELD -- North Ogden resident Debbie Warren was one of several frustrated caregivers to provide input Thursday to the 20-member Alzheimer's State Planning Task Force.
She told the group about the difficulties in caring for a spouse diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and related dementia without receiving much community support.
"You find out who your friends are," Warren said.
The cost to diagnose and treat the disease can serve as a barrier for caregivers, as can the difficulty in finding a neurologist or doctor specializing in that field, she said.
Where there are more plastic surgeons than neurologists in the phone directory, Warren said, maybe it is time the state give some type of school credit to those pursuing a medical field of study to treat those with Alzheimer's disease.
"We need to get more people involved," she said.
The Alzheimer's State Planning Task Force, which held its traveling public hearing this month at the North Davis Senior Activity Center in Clearfield, seemed genuinely interested in Warren's suggestion and mentioned it later during the four-hour public hearing.
The task force is to hold six hearings statewide -- the one in Clearfield on Thursday was its second -- from May to October to gain public input for developing a state plan of action for Alzheimer's disease and associated dementia for the next decade.
The task force, consisting of professionals in aging services, social work and the medical field, was formed under Senate Bill 48, passed by the 2011 state Legislature, said Nels Holmgren, task force chairman and director of the Utah Division of Aging and Adult Services.
He said the task force is to present its plan Nov. 16 to the Health & Human Services Interim Committee.
"We need public input from the people living with this issue," Holmgren said.
The group is scheduled to hold hearings in Logan, St. George, Price and a location yet to be determined in the Salt Lake Valley.
Other Alzheimer's patient caregivers, including Marlene Luke, of Salt Lake City, and Judy Stone, of Holladay, provided the task force with comments.
"It's hope. That is what we need," said Stone, whose husband has Alzheimer's.
"Hope is the thing. Can you see it?" she asked the group. "We need to have hope. We are all going to be touched by it."
And based on Utah statistics, Stone is close in her assessment.
One in every eight people over age 65 has Alzheimer's, said Nick Zullo, program director of the Alzheimer's Association of Utah.
That statistic rises sharply, with one out of every two people ages 85 and older having the disease, Zullo said.
Those figures mean the state has more than 32,000 people with Alzheimer's, Zullo said, and that about 131,000 caregivers in 2010 provided 151 million hours of care at home.
It is predicted that Utah will lead the nation in dementia growth by 2025 with a 127 percent increase, officials say.
In response to that, Davis County officials established an Alzheimer's Association chapter within the North Davis Senior Activity Center.
It used, as seed money, $35,000 in proceeds from the "Mystery Manor" gala the county hosted Oct. 28, as well as a $35,000 match from the association.