Alzheimer's Foundation of America
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | September 23, 2008

Co-chairs of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease Call on Presidential Candidates for Increased Attention to Diagnosis, Treatment of Dementia
Alzheimer’s Foundation of America Survey Shows Lack of Dialogue with Clinicians about Memory Concerns

WASHINGTON, DC— House co-chairs for the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease, Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), called on the presidential candidates to consider the devastating impact of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias on those diagnosed, their loved ones, and federal and local healthcare systems at a Capitol Hill briefing today.

The representatives called for earlier diagnosis, better care coordination, more support for geriatric training and affordable long-term care options.

“According to current estimates, millions of baby boomers and their families will be struck by Alzheimer’s disease during the next decade,” said Markey. “It is crucial that Congress and the next administration take an active role in securing funding to diagnose and ultimately defeat this dreadful disease."

Added Smith: “To avoid being overwhelmed by the pending tidal wave of Alzheimer’s patients, we need a full court press on research into effective treatments today, not next year or the year after.  But, equally important, we also need to ratchet up education to replace the fear of seniors and their families with useful information on prevention and available treatments.”    

Also at the briefing, Richard E, Powers, M.D., chairman of the Medical Advisory Board of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA), highlighted recent survey results that indicate serious deficiencies in the health care system’s ability to recognize and subsequently treat dementia. The AFA survey found that an overwhelming number of Americans with memory concerns fail to report them to their doctors despite visits within the past six months.

In addition, Gary Andres, Ph.D, vice chairman of policy and research, Dutko Worldwide, today released results of a new national poll on public perceptions about Alzheimer’s disease, including support for screening tests and the need for political candidates and legislators to address this health-related issue.

In light of these findings, Powers urged Americans to take advantage of free memory screenings during AFA’s upcoming National Memory Screening Day on November 18, an annual initiative aimed at promoting proper detection and education about memory issues and successful aging.

“We need to make conversations about memory concerns more the norm rather than the exception—to bring the issue into the open in doctor’s offices and on public policy agendas,” said Powers. “Not all memory problems are related to Alzheimer’s disease, but when they are, it is important to obtain an early diagnosis, proper treatment and support services in order to improve quality of life.”

AFA’s survey involved 2,178 participants in National Memory Screening Day last November. Key findings include:

  • More than two-thirds (68 percent) self-reported memory complaints, but only one in five (21 percent) had discussed them with their healthcare providers;
  • Failure to communicate occurred despite recent visits to their primary care physicians; of those with memory concerns, 40 percent had seen their primary care physician within the last month and 44 percent had an appointment within the last six months;
  • Nearly one-quarter of respondents (21 percent) said they kept their memory concerns to themselves;
  • Those who came in for screenings had other healthcare concerns that are known risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease: 18 percent said they are depressed, 16 percent have diabetes, and 14 percent said they are obese.

Currently, AFA is gearing up for its 6 th annual National Memory Screening Day, which will be held on November 18 during National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. Free confidential screenings will be available nationwide at community sites, including the entire chain of 1,100 Kmart pharmacies, local Alzheimer’s agencies, senior centers, assisted living facilities, adult day centers and doctor’s offices. For more information, visit www.nationalmemoryscreening.org or call 866-AFA-8484.

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America is a national nonprofit organization headquartered in New York and made up of 950 member organizations that provide hands-on programs to meet the educational, emotional, practical and social needs of families affected by dementia. AFA services include a toll-free hot line, counseling, educational materials, a free caregiver magazine, and professional training. For information, call (toll-free) 866-AFA-8484 or visit www.alzfdn.org.

Contact: Carol Steinberg
Phone: 866-AFA-8484