Lawmakers are gearing up for the 2016 legislative session and so are advocates who are focused on Hawaii’s booming population of people living with dementia.

The numbers are sobering. Last year in Hawaii, approximately 25,000 individuals ages 65 and over were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

A dementia task force aims to help, through the Hawaii Executive Office on Aging in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association Aloha Chapter.

“There are multiple tasks under this task force including supportive research looking to see if professionals are qualified or capable of handling these type of cases,” said James Pietsch, director, University of Hawaii Elder Law Program.

Professionals like doctors, social workers, nurses and even lawyers need to be better prepared to handle issues involving dementia.

But what does it mean to be a dementia capable attorney?

“We’re trying to develop a core of individuals, attorneys who are dementia capable, is one term that’s being used so that we would be comfortable in handling issues relating to dementia,” Pietsch said.

The task force hopes to make life easier on individuals and their caregivers and help them understand complicated issues like Medicare, Medicaid, advanced directives and power of attorney laws, and, if need be, help change those laws.

“Seeking more changes in laws to reflect the need to make it smoother for individuals in navigating this very complex area when an individual is diagnosed with dementia,” Pietsch said.

As more baby boomers reach 65, dementia cases will rise. Now is the time to prepare, before the need gets greater.