New York, NY (PRWEB) January 03, 2013
Noting that “more needs to be done” to tackle the escalating incidence of Alzheimer’s disease, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) today released a report that includes more than three dozen recommendations to build upon the current goals of the federal government’s historic national Alzheimer’s plan and take the initiative to the next level.
“Our nation has the opportunity to dig even deeper to fill remaining gaps,” said Eric J. Hall, AFA’s president and CEO, and the report’s author. “Further action on the plan’s initial strategies and additional goals and strategies can produce a more defined response to this crisis and make a greater difference in people’s lives.”
Hall said the recommendations “are not overly ambitious; rather, they are unquestionably necessary at this juncture.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the first “National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease” in May 2012, and is charged with updating the plan annually. The plan’s overarching initial goals call for preventing and effectively treating Alzheimer’s disease by 2025, and expanding support for people with Alzheimer’s disease and their families.
The public-private Advisory Council on Research, Care and Services, of which Hall is a member, will be meeting January 14 to suggest changes to the plan. HHS is expected to release the amended version in April.
AFA’s new report, entitled “Time to Build,” measures the national plan’s progress to date as well as offers additional recommendations related to its three areas of focus: research, clinical care and long-term services and supports.
It notes that the inaugural plan “provides solid stepping stones toward substantial change” and that implementation to date of existing action steps is “impressive.” It cites, for example, greater intergovernmental agency cooperation, a new comprehensive government Web site on the disease, and the initial development of training materials.
“A firm foundation has been laid to help move the needle toward better research discoveries, better care practices and better public awareness of Alzheimer’s disease,” Hall said. “But if we want to effectively combat this looming epidemic, we need more. Now is the time to build. And given the enormity of this disease state, the federal government must lead the charge.”
Alzheimer’s disease results in loss of memory and other intellectual functions, and is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Currently, most informal caregivers are unpaid and untrained, and provide more than 80 percent of long-term services.
Chief among AFA’s recommendations related to the enormous cost borne by families, AFA urges the expansion of publicly-funded “participant-directed” programs that would allow participants to hire family members, including spouses, children and teens, as paid caregivers. In addition, the organization suggests federal tax credits for primary family caregivers; income tax deductions for out-of-pocket costs for long-term care services; greater access to government-funded home- and community-based care services such as adult day programs and diagnostic and care planning services; incentives for employers to adopt family-friendly workplace policies; and qualifying all people with Alzheimer’s disease, regardless of age, for Medicare benefits and Administration on Aging programs.
AFA also calls on the federal government to strengthen efforts to build a high-quality dementia care workforce by offering federal student loan forgiveness for professionals in geriatrics and gerontology, establishing a 24-hour call center for dementia healthcare professionals, and requiring licensure and/or accreditation of facilities that care for people with dementia.
And in an effort to address the housing needs for this vulnerable population, AFA is encouraging the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and other stakeholders to develop new, cost-effective transitional housing as a viable alternative to institutionalization.
To further promote timely and accurate diagnosis, AFA calls for initiating an awareness campaign for physicians—similar to the new campaign for the public; promoting the cognitive detection aspect of the Medicare Annual Wellness Visit; utilizing federal and state health facilities as memory screening sites; replacing older memory assessment tools currently suggested by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services with newer, more efficient models; and encouraging federal support of genetic counseling for at-risk family members.
AFA’s research recommendations include establishing large-scale patient registries to facilitate clinical trial recruitment, utilizing uniform data standards to facilitate data share and FDA review of new drugs, and setting up international fund to collect revenues to support research.
“To remain relevant and responsive,” Hall said, “the national plan needs to adapt to the changing landscape in research, clinical and caregiving trends, and it must pay equal attention to quantifiable and quality care and research.”
The “Time to Build” report is posted on http://www.alzfdn.org.
Alzheimer’s disease currently affects more than 5.1 million Americans. The prevalence of the brain disorder is expected to escalate in line with the nation’s aging population; advanced age is its greatest known factor.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, based in New York, is a national nonprofit organization that unites more than 1,600 member organizations nationwide with the goal of providing optimal care and services to individuals confronting dementia, and to their caregivers and families. Its services include counseling and referrals by licensed social workers via a toll-free hot line, e-mail, Skype and live chat; educational materials; a free quarterly magazine for caregivers; and professional training. For more information about AFA, call toll-free 866-232-8484 or visit http://www.alzfdn.org.