US Drafts Plan to Fight Alzheimer’s Disease

With the numbers of Alzheimer’s patients to increase dramatically over the coming decades, our government has started the process of coming up with a strategy to fight the disease, to educate about the disease and to provide money towards research for a cure.

US drafts plan to fight feared Alzheimer’s disease

The Obama administration declared Alzheimer’s “one of the most-feared health conditions” on Wednesday as it issued a draft of the nation’s first strategy to fight the ominous rise in the mind-destroying disease.

More than 5 million Americans already have Alzheimer’s or similar dementias, a toll expected to reach up to 16 million by 2050, along with skyrocketing medical and nursing home bills, because the population is aging so rapidly.

The government’s top goal: Find some effective ways to treat Alzheimer’s by 2025. That is an ambitious quest. Today’s treatments only temporarily ease symptoms. Scientists know that Alzheimer’s brews for years before symptoms appear, but work to find better medications or at least stall the disease’s emergence has been frustratingly slow.

Whether scientists can meet that deadline or not, the first draft of the National Alzheimer’s Plan also makes clear that overwhelmed families need help right away to care for affected loved ones.

Moreover, as many as half of today’s Alzheimer’s sufferers have not been formally diagnosed, and the draft in part blames stigma and misinformation.

Among the draft’s planned steps:

—A major public awareness campaign to help people know the early warning signs of Alzheimer’s and what to do.

—Educate doctors and other health workers about how to recognize Alzheimer’s, what medications are available now that can help with the disease’s symptoms, and what social services may help families to cope.

—Improve early detection, in part by determining the best cognitive screening to offer during Medicare’s new annual wellness visit.

—Improve training of caregivers, so they know what resources are available and how to handle common behavior problems of dementia. Research shows that caregivers given such training are able to keep their loved ones at home for far longer.

—Study how to address the health needs of stressed and isolated caregivers.

Then there’s the goal of better treatments. The National Institutes of Health spends about $450 million a year on dementia research. This month, the Obama administration announced it would add an extra $50 million to that tab this year, and seek $80 million more to spend on Alzheimer’s research in 2013.

It plans to spend about $26 million on some of the plan’s other provisions.

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