Keys to managing Alzheimers: Accurate diagnosis, education

May 29, 2014

Timely and accurate diagnosis, as well as patient access to local resources, are key to managing Alzheimer’s, according to a report from the Alzheimer’s Association.

MorenoTimely and accurate diagnosis, as well as patient access to local resources, are key to managing Alzheimer’s, according to a report from the Alzheimer’s Association. 

According to the report, Alzheimer’s is now the most expensive disease in the country.

“A primary reason for this cost is that Alzheimer’s makes treating other diseases more expensive as most individuals with Alzheimer’s have 1 or more comorbidity that complicate the management of conditions(s) and increase costs,” according to Monica Moreno, director, early-stage initiatives at the Alzheimer's Association. “The rising costs of Alzheimer’s will cripple an already fragile healthcare system and threatens to bankrupt Medicare and Medicaid.” 

Highlights of the 2014 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report include:

• Women in their 60s are about twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s over the rest of their lives as they are to develop breast cancer.

With women making up the majority of both people living with the disease and caregivers, the disease tends to take a stronger toll on them, according to Moreno.

“As the disease progresses and caregiving responsibilities grow, women assume an even greater share of the caregiving burden and are less likely to receive outside help,” she explained.  “As formulary managers encounter more families impacted by the disease, there are things they can do to help.  Provide families with much needed information and resources.”

• Nearly 1 in 5 dollars spent by Medicare is on someone with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Medicare and Medicaid are expected to pay $150 billion in 2014 for healthcare, long-term care and hospice for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias

• Total national cost of caring for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias will reach an estimated $214 billion in 2014 and could reach $1.2 trillion by 2050.

• In 2013, 15.5 million caregivers provided a contribution to the nation valued at more than $220 billion. Also, Americans provided 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care to people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

 

Recruiting and retaining clinical trial participants is now the greatest obstacle, other than funding, to developing the next generation of Alzheimer's treatments, according to Moreno. The Alzheimer’s Association’sTrialMatch provides comprehensive clinical trial information and an individualized matching service for people with Alzheimer's disease or related dementias, their caregivers, family members and healthcare professionals.

The greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease is age, according to Moreno.

“With the aging baby boom generation the number of people being treated in managed care and hospital settings will continue to increase,” she said. “The National Alzheimer’s Project Act’s [NAPA] addresses 2 important goals-enhance care quality and efficiency and ensure a timely and accurate diagnosis.”

Building a high-quality workforce with the skills to provide high-quality care to people living with the disease requires culturally competent professionals with appropriate skills, according to Moreno.

“To accomplish this, providers need reliable information about caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease in all settings throughout the progression of the disease,” she said. “Physicians and other healthcare providers also need information on how to implement the detection of any cognitive impairment, a requirement in the Medicare Annual Wellness Visit included in the Affordable Care Act.”