National Alzheimer’s Plan Presented

July 21, 2012
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Back in the winter, a draft of a National Alzheimer’s Plan, called for in the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA), was released. More than 3,600 people or organizations submitted comments on the draft plan including the Consumer Consortium for Advancing Person Center Living, of which I am on the board.  We wrote about efforts at the time to refine the plan.
 
At that time the administration announced that it would take immediate action to implement parts of the plan. Then in May, the Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced additional specific actions, including the funding of two major clinical trials; the development of new high-quality, up-to-date training and information for clinicians; and a new public education campaign and website to help families and caregivers find the services and support they need.
 
The initiatives announced include:
  • Research – The funding of new research projects by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will focus on key areas in which emerging technologies and new approaches in clinical testing now allow for a more comprehensive assessment of the disease. Two major clinical trials are being funded. One is a $7.9 million effort to test an insulin nasal spray for treating Alzheimer’s disease. A second study is the first prevention trial in people at the highest risk for the disease.
  • Tools for Clinicians – The Health Resources and Services Administration has awarded $2 million in funding through its geriatric education centers to provide high-quality training for doctors, nurses, and other health care providers on recognizing the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and how to manage the disease.
  • HHS’ new website, www.alzheimers.gov, offers resources and support to those facing Alzheimer’s disease and their friends and family.
  • Awareness campaign – The first new television advertisement encouraging caregivers to seek information at the new website was debuted.
In 2013, the National Family Caregiver Support Program will continue to provide essential services to family caregivers, including those helping loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease. This program will enable family caregivers to receive essential respite services, providing them a short break from caregiving duties, along with other essential services, such as counseling, education and support groups.

This funding will be extremely important especially in light of one recent study that found that one-third of Alzheimer’s disease diagnoses were incorrect. Researchers working on the Honolulu-Asia Aging Study — an ongoing study that’s been in progress since 1991 — have been studying the brain changes caused by Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. When pathologists studied the brains of 852 men diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, they found that the diagnosis was wrong in one-third of the time; correct one-third of the time; and partially wrong one-third of the time, the Detroit Free Press reported.

“Pulling these things apart and the need for a real diagnosis — that’s important so people can live the best quality of life as possible for as long as possible,” Jennifer Howard, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Michigan Great Lakes Chapter, told the Free Press.

Howard recommends consultations with interdisciplinary team with both geriatricians and neurologists to gain more accurate diagnoses.


For more information on the national plan to address Alzheimer’s disease, visit: www.alzheimers.gov.

To read the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease, visit http://aspe.hhs.gov/daltcp/napa/NatlPlan.pdf.