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AFA report recommends updates to national Alzheimer’s plan

January 9, 2013
by Patricia Sheehan, Editor-in-Chief
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Noting that “more needs to be done” to tackle the escalating incidence of Alzheimer’s disease, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) has released a report that offers more than three dozen recommendations to build upon the current goals of the federal government’s national Alzheimer’s plan.

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 initial goals call for preventing and effectively treating Alzheimer’s disease by 2025, and expanding support for people with Alzheimer’s and their families.

The public-private Advisory Council on Research, Care and Services 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.

AFA’s recommendations to the plan include:

  • Qualifying all people with Alzheimer’s disease, regardless of age, for Medicare benefits and Administration on Aging programs
  • Urging 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
  • Requiring licensure and/or accreditation of facilities that care for people with dementia
  • The expansion of a program that would allow family members of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease to be hired as paid caregivers
  • Income tax deductions for out-of-pocket expenses for long-term services and federal tax credits for primary caregivers
  • Greater access to government-funded home- and community-based care services such as adult day programs and diagnostic and care planning services.
  • 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 Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) 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 an international fund to collect revenues to support research.

Says Eric J. Hall, AFA’s president and CEO, and the report’s author: “To remain relevant and responsive 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.”

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