National Alzheimer's Plan Offers Focused Strategies

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • In yesterday’s sharepost, I described the overall goals and financial allocations being recommended in the draft of the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease that’s being developed by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research, Care and Services. It’s important for you to take a look at the plan since public comment is being accepted until March 30, 2012.

    So what exactly is in the plan? Let’s take a look:

    -    Goal 1: Prevent and Effectively Treat Alzheimer’s by 2025. To achieve this goal, the committee is suggesting identifying research priorities and milestones, soliciting input on research priorities, and continually refining strategies and action items related to this goal. In addition, the committee is recommending convening a scientific workshop related to non-Alzheimer’s dementias in 2013. In addition research priorities and milestones need to be updated annually. In addition, research needs to be expanded to identify molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying Alzheimer’s disease; this information needs to be used to identify potential interventions. Researchers also need to use genome sequencing to identify areas of variation that correspond to changes in risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. Enrollment in clinical trials and other research programs needs to be increased through community, national and international research. Racial and ethnic minorities that participate in Alzheimer’s disease studies need to be monitored to identify next steps for engaging and enhancing their participation in research. Research will continue on the effectiveness of pharmaceuticals, lifestyle interventions and risk factor reduction in slowing/preventing Alzheimer’s. The committee also would like for the research community to expand its efforts to identify people who have early or presymptomatic stages of Alzheimer’s disease in order to track its progression and monitor the effects of treatments. Additionally, the committee is calling for better communication, collaboration and coordination in Alzheimer’s research and funding. Promising research findings and interventions need to be quickly and accurately communicated to the general public, medical practitioners, the pharmaceutical industry and public health system staff members.

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    -    Goal 2: Enhance Care Quality and Efficiency. The committee is trying to develop a multi-tiered approach in order to efficiently provide all people who have Alzheimer’s with the highest quality care. To achieve this goal, the committee is recommending building a workforce that has the skills to provide high-quality care. This work force would include primary care physicians, specialists (neurologists, geriatricians, psychiatrists, etc.), nursing staff, dentists, social workers, community health workers, psychologists, pharmacists, and direct-care workers. The committee has recommended that three programs that encourage careers in geriatric specialties should also address the needs of people with Alzheimer’s. A clearinghouse of dementia curricula and practice recommendations will be developed for medical professionals, professional caregivers and informal caregivers and placed on a publicly-available website. The committee also is recommending that state and local Alzheimer’s strategies should be reported through disseminating information, translating effective strategies and sharing best practices. The committee recommends improving public awareness of diagnostic and treatment services and encouraging the dissemination of appropriate assessment tools. More education and assistance is needed for people with Alzheimer’s disease and their families once a diagnosis has been made. This area includes educating physicians and other healthcare providers about available long-term services and supports. The committee also is encouraging the exploration of dementia care guidelines and measures as well as the effectiveness of new care models for people who have Alzheimer’s. Another strategy involves having a safe and effective transition for people with Alzheimer’s who are moving between care settings and systems. Furthermore, the committee is calling for advanced coordination and integration of health and long-term services and supports. The plan also includes a strategy to improve care for populations who are disproportionately affected by this disease as well as for populations who are facing care challenges.

  • -    Goal 3: Expand Supports for People with Alzheimer’s and Their Families. The Obama administration would like to make a new investment of $10.5 million in fiscal year 2013 to support the needs of these caregivers. Strategies ensure the identification and distribution of culturally sensitive materials and training to caregivers and persons with Alzheimer’s. A second strategy is designed to help family caregivers provide care while maintaining their own health and well-being through the identification of unmet service needs, as well as identification and dissemination of best practices for caregiver assessment and referrals. The plan also calls for support to caregivers in crisis and emergency situations. Another strategy is for assistance to families in planning for future care needs. The committee also has developed a strategy to maintain the dignity, safety and rights of people with Alzheimer’s disease through educating legal professionals about working with people who have this disease and monitoring, reporting and reducing inappropriate use of anti-psychotics in nursing homes. Finally, the plan calls for assessment of the housing needs of people with Alzheimer’s disease through the exploration of affordable housing models and the examination of patterns of housing and services.

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    -    Goal 4: Enhance Public Awareness and Engagement. The plan calls for educating the public about Alzheimer’s disease, including working with state and local governments to advance awareness of the disease and readiness.

    -    Goal 5: Improve Data to Track Progress. The Department of Health and Human Services will expand and enhance its data infrastructure in order to provide data to federal agencies and other researchers. This data will help policymakers and researchers identify gaps, challenges, and changes or additions to the data that need to be collected. This data will be used to track progress and update the National Plan annually.

    For a full copy of this draft plan, go to this link. You can also provide feedback on the plan through March 30, 2012 by following this link.

Published On: February 28, 2012