As election year activities gear up, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) encourages all Alzheimer’s stakeholders to take the opportunity over the next few months to engage political incumbents and candidates, make them aware of the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA) and the recently-released first-ever national Alzheimer’s plan, and tell them “NAPA Now.”
The historic national plan, released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in May 2012, provides laudable goals. Now, implementation of its strategies requires funding and action. We cannot wait. We all must commit to action, provide adequate resources and establish innovative public private partnerships to battle this insidious disease.
AFA urges all Alzheimer stakeholders to attend town hall meetings, BBQ’s, coffee klatches, Fourth of July parades and any other events where politicians are attending or campaigning to engage them in conversations about NAPA. Here are some talking points:
- NAPA is bipartisan. NAPA was passed unanimously by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011. It calls for the creation of a national strategic plan to address Alzheimer’s disease and to coordinate efforts across the federal government.
- The national plan is comprehensive. The plan touches on five major areas: research, clinical care services, long-term services and supports, awareness, and accountability measures to track progress.
- It’s a national plan, not a federal plan. Progress against Alzheimer’s disease and the success of some long-term goals depend on resources, scientific progress and collaborations across public and private sectors. The plan will be updated annually, so policymakers and all stakeholders can provide input into future strategies.
- There’s a “silver tsunami” brewing. Alzheimer’s disease in the United States is at crisis proportions. Currently, an estimated 5.1 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, and the incidence is rising with the nation’s aging population. It is the sixth leading cause of death—the only disease in the top ten causes of death that cannot be prevented, cured or modified.
- The national plan recognizes the needs of family caregivers. For each person with Alzheimer’s disease, there are multiple caregivers, who respond to 24/7 needs. Responsibilities often fall on family members whose health and well-being often suffer as a result. If Alzheimer’s disease remains unchecked, the cost of care in the United States is expected to soar to $1 trillion annually by 2050.
- Alzheimer’s disease affects all of us. While the politician may not be personally affected by Alzheimer’s disease in his family, there is no doubt that many of his constituents have or know someone with the brain disorder. Share the power of your story.
What’s in the “National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease”?
Impacting all Alzheimer’s disease stakeholders:
- Identifying promising research priorities, compressing pathways to bring promising drugs to market, increasing enrollment in clinical trials and accelerating efforts to identify early stages of Alzheimer’s disease;
- Increasing resources for Alzheimer’s disease research by $50 million in FY 2012 and a proposed $80 million in FY 2013;
- Increasing coordination, participation and collaboration with international partners on Alzheimer’s disease research and awareness;
- Adding $26 million to support people with Alzheimer’s disease and their families; and
- Enhancing education and public awareness about Alzheimer’s disease through a two-year $8.2 million campaign.
Impacting family caregivers:
- Providing easy-to-navigate education about Alzheimer’s disease, with a new government Web site ( www.alzheimers.gov);
- Ensuring the development and dissemination of culturally-sensitive education, training and support materials;
- Enabling family caregivers to continue providing care while maintaining their own health and well-being by identifying unmet needs and disseminating best practices and evidence-based interventions;
- Linking the public to diagnostic and clinical management services for timely and accurate diagnosis;
- Taking steps to address the unique challenges of people with young-onset Alzheimer’s disease, Down syndrome, and racial and ethnic groups;
- Supporting caregivers in crisis situations;
- Assisting families in planning future care needs by eliminating barriers to care and expanding long-term care awareness;
- Maintaining the dignity and rights of people with Alzheimer’s disease by educating legal professionals who work with people affected by Alzheimer’s disease and reducing inappropriate use of antipsychotics; and
- Assessing and addressing the housing needs of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.
Impacting healthcare providers:
- Building a healthcare workforce to better serve individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, by providing up-to-date training to physicians and other healthcare providers, including tools available to detect cognitive impairment and appropriate assessment processes for the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease;
- Increasing incentives to pursue careers in geriatric specialties;
- Providing new training for nursing home direct-care workers focused on high-quality, person-centered care;
- Establishing a timely and accurate diagnosis standard, which would identify appropriate assessment tools;
- Educating and supporting families and caregivers upon diagnosis;
- Identifying dementia care guidelines and measures;
- Exploring new care models for people with Alzheimer’s disease, including Alzheimer’s-specific medical homes and increased care coordination, ensuring new care models for safe and effective transitions between care settings, identifying models of care for safety in hospitals, and advancing coordinated and integrated long-term care services; and
- Improving care for populations disproportionately impacted by Alzheimer’s disease and for populations, like the developmentally disabled and people with young-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
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