What the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease Means to You

On May 15, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) unveiled the first-ever “National Plan To Address Alzheimer’s Disease,” as mandated by the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA). The comprehensive plan calls for the prevention and effective treatment of Alzheimer’s disease by 2025 and lays out strategies related to awareness and education, clinical care standards, long-term care and supportive services for family caregivers, and up-to-date training of healthcare professionals.

In a statement issued immediately after the release of the national plan, Eric J. Hall, president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA), commended the plan for providing “solid stepping stones toward substantial change. It offers the prospect of transforming the way our nation and the world view Alzheimer’s disease, altering the trajectory of this tragic disease, and changing lives forever. It substantiates the plight of millions of Americans and validates the concerns of generations to come. For the first time, we are making progress toward defeating this public health crisis.”

The final plan was preceded by two draft reports released by HHS and recommendations submitted to HHS by the Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research, Care and Services, as well as by the public. The Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research, Care and Services is composed of federal and non-federal leaders, including Hall, and has been advising on the development of the plan during the past few months.

What the National Alzheimer’s Plan Means to You

How will the plan impact you as a person with Alzheimer’s disease, caregiver or other family member, healthcare professional, community organization or researcher? What provisions and recommendations may affect you in your day-to-day life?

What the national plan means to all Alzheimer’s disease stakeholders:

  • Identifying promising research priorities, compressing pathways to bring promising drugs to market, increasing enrollment in clinical trials and accelerating efforts to identify early stages of Alzheimer’s disease;
  • Increasing resources for Alzheimer’s disease research by $50 million in FY 2012 and a proposed $80 million in FY 2013;
  • Increasing coordination, participation and collaboration with international partners on Alzheimer’s disease research and awareness;
  • Adding $26 million to support people with Alzheimer’s disese and their families; and
  • Enhancing education and public awareness about Alzheimer’s disease through a two-year $8.2 million campaign.

What the national plan means to family caregivers:

  • Providing easy-to-navigate education about Alzheimer’s disease, with a new government Web site ( www.alzheimers.gov);
  • Ensuring the development and dissemination of culturally-sensitive education, training and support materials;
  • Enabling family caregivers to continue providing care while maintaining their own health and well-being by identifying unmet needs and disseminating best practices and evidence-based interventions;
  • Linking the public to diagnostic and clinical management services for timely and accurate diagnosis;
  • Taking steps to address the unique challenges of people with young-onset Alzheimer’s disease, Down syndrome, and racial and ethnic groups;
  • Supporting caregivers in crisis situations;
  • Assisting families in planning future care needs by eliminating barriers to care and expanding long-term care awareness;
  • Maintaining the dignity and rights of people with Alzheimer’s disease by educating legal professionals who work with people affected by Alzheimer’s disease and reducing inappropriate use of antipsychotics; and
  • Assessing and addressing the housing needs of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.

What the national plan means to healthcare providers:

  • Building a healthcare workforce to better serve individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, by providing up-to-date training to physicians and other healthcare providers, including tools available to detect cognitive impairment and appropriate assessment processes fr the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease;
  • Increasing incentives to pursue careers in geriatric specialties;
  • Providing new training for nursing home direct-care workers focused on high-quality, person-centered care;
  • Establishing a timely and accurate diagnosis standard, which would identify appropriate assessment tools;
  • Educating and supporting families and caregivers upon diagnosis;
  • Identifying dementia care guidelines and measures;
  • Exploring new care models for people with Alzheimer’s disease, including Alzheimer’s-specific medical homes and increased care coordination, ensuring new care models for safe and effective transitions between care settings, identifying models of care for safety in hospitals, and advancing coordinated and integrated long-term care services; and
  • Improving care for populations disproportionately impacted by Alzheimer’s disease and for populations, like the developmentally disabled and people with young-onset Alzheimer’s disease
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