Alzheimer's disease is a growing threat as the population gets older. Already, more than 5 million Americans have the mind-destroying disease. Barring some research breakthroughs, up to 16 million may have it by 2050. The first National Alzheimer's Plan, adopted Tuesday, aims to slow that threat -- and to help the families already suffering along the way.
The five major goals:
--Find ways to effectively treat or prevent Alzheimer's by 2025. To start, the government will spend an extra $50 million on Alzheimer's research this year, including a new study of whether an insulin nasal spray might help dementia.
--Provide better care today. Too many doctors don't recognize the early symptoms of Alzheimer's, or know how to care for those patients with limited time. Among other steps, the plan calls for better doctor training and screening for signs of Alzheimer's at the annual Medicare wellness visit.
--Expand support for families and caregivers. A website -- www.alzheimers.gov -- offers information that will help families discover what resources are available in their local area. The plan calls for more work on how to help families plan ahead for care needs when a loved one is diagnosed, more support services to help families care for Alzheimer's patients at home, and developing ways to help caregivers safeguard their own health.
--Enhance public awareness of Alzheimer's, to reduce the stigma that helps fuel late diagnosis and family isolation.
--Improve tracking of Alzheimer's, to get better data on the impact of the disease, unmet research needs and to measure if the plan is working.