Friday, May 18, 2012

Alzheimer's Treatment in this Lifetime?

This week the Obama administration released the details of a national plan to address Alzheimer’s disease. The National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA), is a large scale program to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease via a number of approaches.

The five broad goals of the plan are (1) prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer’s disease by 2025; (2) enhance care quality and efficiency; (3) expand supports for people with Alzheimer’s disease and their families; (4) enhance public awareness and engagement; and (5) improve data to track progress.

While the goals seem lofty, the strategies to achieve them are specific. For example, Strategy 2.F: Ensure that People with AD Experience Safe and Effective Transitions between Care Settings and Systems, calls for hospitals to identify best practices for reducing injuries and complications than can occur during care transitions for all people, including frail elders and individuals with other chronic conditions. It also calls on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to strengthen the role of local centers in implementing care transition models that engage older adults, individuals with disabilities and their informal caregivers. And HHS has already created a website to lend support to caregivers, www.alzheimers.gov.

Perhaps the biggest part of the plan is its aim to develop effective prevention and treatment approaches for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias by 2025. That is long enough for baby boomers to see the change in their lifetime, and, according to current life expectancy estimates, short enough for middle aged Americans with the potential for Alzheimer’s to benefit from it.

The announcement has spurred a flurry of discussions on Alzheimer’s disease in the media, including one by television star and musician David Cassidy, on CNN earlier today.

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