End-of-Life Choice, Death with Dignity, Palliative Care and Counseling

Celebrating Alzheimer’s Action Day (9.21.11)by Jay


Alzheimer’s and dementia represent an international public health crisis. Current estimates suggest that 36 million people worldwide are living with dementia; this number is expected to double by 2030 and more than triple by 2050. The total worldwide costs of dementia are estimated at $604 billion.

This Alzheimer’s Action Day, health care systems all over the world are facing the daunting challenge of meeting the needs of individuals with Alzheimer’s. In almost every country, the proportion of people over the age of 60 is growing faster than any other age group as a result of both longer life expectancies and declining birth rates. This will only make the Alzheimer’s challenge even greater.

In the United States alone, an estimated 5.4 million Americans are living with this devastating, heartbreaking disease that slowly steals a person’s memories, independence, control and eventually life. Alzheimer’s is not normal aging, although advancing age is the greatest risk factor. Among those 65 and older, one in eight has the disease and nearly half of individuals age 85 and older do. Alzheimer’s and dementia doesn’t just affect individuals; they also affect the nearly 15 million family members and friends who provide care for loved ones with this disabling condition. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. and the only one of the top 10 without a way to prevent, cure or even slow its progression.

But there is hope.

The National Alzheimer’s Project Act was passed unanimously by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama on January 4, 2011. It requires the federal government to create a national strategic plan to address the rapidly escalating Alzheimer’s crisis, coordinate Alzheimer’s disease efforts across the federal government and annually assess if the nation is meeting the challenges of the disease for families, communities and the nation’s health care system.  Enactment of the National Alzheimer’s Project Act was a significant victory for the Alzheimer’s cause.To date, the federal government’s commitment to fighting Alzheimer’s has not reflected the expanding human, social and economic burden of the disease. Even where the federal government has acted, the efforts have been spread across multiple federal agencies with no one responsible for coordinating these efforts. This has often led to fragmentation of responsibility, duplication of effort and conflicting roles. But, with the development of a focused, strategic plan, we now have the opportunity to create the same success that has been demonstrated in the fights against other diseases such as HIV/AIDS, heart disease, prostate cancer, breast cancer and stroke. Because of a strong governmental commitment to fight these diseases, deaths from HIV/AIDS, heart disease and some cancers have decreased throughout the last decade, while the number of deaths from Alzheimer’s increased 66 percent between 2000 and 2008.

As the world’s leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research, the Alzheimer’s Association is dedicated to supporting the development and implementation of a National Alzheimer’s Plan with outcome-driven objectives and accountability. The Association is also committed to ensuring that a broad and diverse array of perspectives are included and considered in the plan’s development. This is why, throughout August and September, the Association hosted public input sessions throughout the country.

Building on the Association’s commitment to provide platforms of engagement for those directly affected by Alzheimer’s, the public was invited to attend these events and share their views on what an effective National Alzheimer’s Plan should include. The input gathered from these sessions as well as comments submitted to www.alz.org/napa will be collected and developed into a report that will be presented to Administration officials, representatives from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s, Research, Care and Service. On this Alzheimer’s Action Day, the Association honors those thousands of Americans who came to these input sessions and made their voices heard.

We know time is of the essence. With an aging baby boomer population at increased risk for developing this disease with each passing year, the time to address this public health crisis is today. On this Alzheimer’s Action Day, during World Alzheimer’s Month, we celebrate the landmark opportunity that the National Alzheimer’s Project presents – a real, concrete opportunity to change the trajectory of this disease – once and for all.

To learn more about the National Alzheimer’s Project Act, visit www.alz.org/napa. For more information on the Alzheimer’s Association visit http://www.alz.org/, “like” us on Facebook page or follow us on Twitter.

The end of Alzheimer’s starts with you.