After a year's worth of research and analysis, the U.S. government recently released the country's first-ever National Alzheimer's Plan, much to the delight of health advocates in general and the Alzheimer's Association specifically.
On May 15, the day the plan was officially unveiled to the public, the Association hailed President Barack Obama, his administration and lawmakers for putting together a plan that aims for the lofty goal of finding a cure to Alzheimer's by 2025.
Harry Johns, president and CEO of the Alzheimer's Association, said what's been put forward is a good first step.
"This is a strong plan that promises important progress when implemented," said Johns. "For all Americans - not just the more than 5 million living with Alzheimer's and their 15 million caregivers today - this plan is an historic achievement."
While government and health officials are largely responsible for putting the plan together, the Alzheimer's Association says it wouldn't have been possible were it not for the 250,000 Americans who signed a petition that called for the National Alzheimer's Plan. In addition, 130 input sessions from advocates in communities across the country gave their take on what could be done to combat the disease.
"The Association thanks our tireless advocates, the administration and Congress and for making [this] possible," said Johns. "We look forward to building on the momentum created by the National Alzheimer's Plan and working without pause to ensure it is implemented effectively.
The plan itself - which is about 69 pages in length - is broken down into five different sections, or "goals."
Goal 1: Prevent and Effective Treat Alzheimer's Disease by 2025
In order to accomplish the goal of eliminating the threat of Alzheimer's disease within the next 13 years, the plan establishes what's been accomplished thus far, the status of current research projects and what efforts are being implemented to accelerate the detection of Alzheimer's disease, particularly in the early stages.
Goal 2: Enhance Care Quality and Efficiency
The plan says that one of the best ways of enhancing the quality of treatment is by building a workforce with the skills necessary to provide a high level of care. This includes healthcare providers, doctors, students interested in pursuing advanced degrees in medicine, home caregivers and officials with the United States Department of Health and Human Services. This can be accomplished by provide them with better training and tools they need to manage the disease, which may be funded through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Goal 3: Expand Supports for People with Alzheimer's Disease and their Families
Something else that the plan looks to improve are the lives of caregivers.
"Caregivers report that they feel unprepared for some of the challenges of caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease - for example, caring for a loved one with sleep disturbances, behavioral changes, or in need of physical assistance can be an enormous challenge," the report notes.
To correct this issue, the report says HHS will work with state agencies and federal departments in producing and distributing materials to caregivers that will give them a better indication of what to expect when providing for a loved one who's been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. HHS will also advertise the Administration on Aging's National Alzheimer's Call Center, which provides 'round the clock advice and care consultation for individuals who may be struggling with their caretaking duties.