Alzheimer's Study Group Makes Recommendations to Congress
The congressionally appointed Alzheimer’s Study Group, co-chaired by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and former Senator Bob Kerrey, made recommendations to the United States Congress after a significant period of analysis. The study group recommended establishing the Alzheimer’s Solutions Project to accelerate and focus national efforts, reengineer dementia care delivery, and, ultimately, prevent Alzheimer’s disease. The study group suggested three pillars:
- The Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative: As a national priority, urgently focus on developing the capability to delay and, ultimately, prevent Alzheimer’s disease. This capability will depend on the advancement of development science as well as basic research.
- The Alzheimer’s Care Improvement Initiative: By 2012, use value-based payments to reimburse providers for at least 20 percent of health and social services for people with dementia, and for half of these services by 2016. Value-based payments will reward health care and social services professionals for providing the coordinated care dementia patients most need for better health and a higher quality of life.
- The Alzheimer’s Public-Private Partnership: By 2010, establish an outcomes-oriented, project-focused Alzheimer’s Solutions Project Office within the Federal Government, this office will lead the successful implementation of the Alzheimer’s Prevention and the Alzheimer’s Care Improvement initiatives, together with supporting efforts.
NPR’s Talk of the Nation featured a segment last week on the Study Group’s recommendations and issues related to Alzheimer's. Gingrich, who has had a long interest in health issues having founded the Center for Health Transformation, became interested in Alzheimer’s when working with Kerrey on a commission focused on quality long-term care. That commission found that Alzheimer’s is the central driver of care for the next generation. Gingrich decided to join the Study Group because of the encouraging research being done on the brain. Gingrich also noted that this disease affects families, noting that family members provide approximately 94 billion hours of uncompensated caregiving annually. He noted that the financial implications for this nation, noting that this amount of care would mean passing the equivalent of a new stimulus bill every six months. Furthermore, developing a way to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s by five years would result in a savings of over $8 trillion.
During the NPR interview, former Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who also served as a member of the study group, said that without basic action in the United States, ultimately one of two people over 80s will have Alzheimer’s disease. She knows the challenges first-hand since her husband has Alzheimer’s disease. When her husband was first diagnosed, Justice O’Connor had to learn about Alzheimer’s since no one in her immediate circle had dealt with this disease. She said she learned that the disease is progressive and a caretaker is needed continually. She found that her husband wandered off when left alone for even short periods of time. “It’s like caring for a small child and you can’t leave them unattended,” she said, adding that it was difficult to balance caregiving with her professional duties. Justice Connor felt that the issue of Alzheimer’s is finally becoming a priority before because of increased longevity.
Frankly, I’m really grateful to the members of the Alzheimer’s Study Group for tackling the many difficult aspects of this disease and making important recommendations. Putting the hard truths in front of national policymakers is so critical. By having these facts, policymakers have the opportunity to make crucial decisions to fund research to stop Alzheimer’s and – until that happens – to develop ways to support for those who suffer from Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.