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With National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month in November, we acknowledge that the growing tragedy of Alzheimer's disease is underscored by jaw-dropping numbers. In Virginia alone, 130,000 residents age 65 or older are struggling with Alzheimer's. According to the 2012 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures report, care for Alzheimer's patients will involve $200 billion in costs alone this year; those costs are expected to sharply rise to over $1 trillion by 2050.
The challenge of Alzheimer's is linked to the ongoing efforts to make the U.S. health care system more cost-effective and patient-focused. Because Alzheimer's patients are often unable to manage their own care, it becomes important to manage transitions of care, integrate mental and physical health interventions, and use team-based care and in-home medical models.
The conversation around how to most effectively treat Alzheimer's patients is reaching a critical juncture. Research by biopharmaceutical companies have yielded promising yet mixed results. The dedicated pursuit of a breakthrough by our best and brightest researchers is needed, but that hinges on having a policy environment that supports public and private biomedical research.
The Department of Health and Human Services released a national Alzheimer's plan, which includes prevention and effective treatment of the disease by 2025. With this groundwork in place, it becomes imperative to invest in making certain these goals are achieved.
Continued collaboration between the public and private sectors will be critical in turning the tide on this disease from one with a terminal diagnosis to one that can be managed with early intervention or prevented altogether. This compassionate imperative is necessary if we are to address cost escalations that threaten the viability of our health care system.
Chairman, Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease
Vice President of Public Policy, Alzheimer's Association