Brain Health Center Offers Model for Comprehensive Alzheimer’s Care: Collaborative Approach Benefits Patients and Family Caregivers
by Joan Trezek
The “graying of America” is hardly a secret. The media has focused at length on the impact of seniors and especially the boomer generation on health care and society. These discussions often lead to a dizzying catalog ofstatistics about Alzheimer’s disease. Indeed, almost everyone knows someone of advanced years who is experiencing some type of memory loss or cognitive impairment. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the number of Americans living with the disease exceeds 5 million. In less than 40 years, it is estimated that nearly 14 million Americans older than 65 will have the disease. Even more staggering are the number of Americans – typically family members – who are caregivers. Last year more than 15 million people provided unpaid care valued at $216 billion.
Because many of the educational, support, and counseling services needed are not reimbursed by government payers, patients and caregivers can struggle for as long as 10 to 20 years as the disease takes its toll. A statement by the Alzheimer’s Association is sobering: “The graying of America is about the bankruptcy of America, and Alzheimer’s disease is a major factor.”
Clinicians recognize that a diagnosis of dementia or even mild memory loss can be difficult, and treatment is even more so. As Catherine Madison, MD, a neurologist at California Pacific Medical Center’s Davies campus in San Francisco, explains, “Fixes are not always possible. We can do things to improve quality of life for those with some degree of impairment and their families. But health care organizations don’t get paid for such services as classes, support groups, nutrition counseling, and activities to reduce stress or improve sleep.”