Most people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease are not aware of their diagnosis, and only about half of those with Alzheimer’s disease have been diagnosed at all. Of the seniors who have been diagnosed, only 33% are aware they have the disease. Even when caregivers are included, the percentage of those who are aware of the Alzheimer’s diagnosis only increases to 45%. Compared to the 90% of people who are aware of their diagnosis of cancer or heart disease, the lack of awareness of Alzheimer’s diagnosis is dangerously low.
An early and documented diagnosis is extremely beneficial to both individuals with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers as it encourages more effective care coordination, better access to care planning services, and increases the quality of medical care received. The HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act would increase access to information on care and support for those affected and would also ensure that Alzheimer’s is properly documented on the affected individual’s medical record. One of the top federal priorities of the Alzheimer’s Association for the 114th Congress is to promote the “Health Outcomes, Planning, and Education”, or HOPE, for Alzheimer’s Act. If this act is passed, quality of life for both those with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers will be undoubtedly improved.
Why are the percentages of people diagnosed so low?
Following a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, individuals and their caregivers need to be given information about the diagnosis and available support services. A lack of time and resources can inhibit a physician’s ability to provide this necessary information and support, and sometimes, as a result, physicians do not diagnose Alzheimer’s or do not disclose a diagnosis once it is made. Medicare already provides coverage for Alzheimer’s disease diagnostic services. The HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act builds upon existing Medicare coverage and would provide doctors with the time they would need to properly address the Alzheimer’s diagnosis and discuss available support options.
The HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act takes steps to ensure access to care planning services. Alzheimer’s care planning is crucial for improving the lives of both the person affected by Alzheimer’s and their care partner. Care planning provides caregivers and newly-diagnosed individuals with information about available medical and non-medical treatments, possible clinical trials, existing counseling and support services, and emphasizes the importance of financial and long-term care planning. Access to this important information soon after a diagnosis is received dramatically improves the quality of medical care for the person affected.
The documentation of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis in an individual’s medical record is extremely useful in assisting physicians to provide the most effective treatment for their patients. Alzheimer’s disease complicates management of many additional conditions and consequently raises the cost associated with treatment. At least 74% of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias are afflicted with one or more chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease. With the HOPE act ensuring an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is documented, caregivers can expect Medicare costs to fall and quality of care for those affected to increase.
How can you help the HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act?
Let your voice be heard and advocate for the HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act.
Become an Alzheimer’s Advocate today, visit http://www.alz.org/advocacy or call 800-272-3900 for more information on how to get involved.
For more information on the HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act and for resources & tips on how to spread awareness & advocate for the cause, visit http://act.alz.org/site/PageNavigator/Advocacy_PublicPolicy/HOPEforAlzheimersAct.html