Last month, the Obama administration released the National Alzheimer’s Plan, setting a deadline of 2025 to cure or at least stall the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD).
I’m thrilled that addressing Alzheimer’s disease has finally become a national priority. And as researchers focus on finding a cure, it’s up to all of us to focus on building a positive perspective about the disease—to stop using phrases like “suffering from Alzheimer’s” and to start concentrating on how to increase quality of life for people with ADRD.
To do that, we need to educate and support all health care workers. We need to create a dementia-capable society—a society that’s capable of dealing effectively with the physical, mental, emotional, and financial effects of the disease—effects that impact those with dementia, as well as their caregivers, their loved ones, and society as a whole. Just as we have cancer care centers, we need Alzheimer's care centers in which we help individuals live to the best of their abilities.
I believe that the new plan is a step in the right direction, and I hope that the day will come soon when high-quality, abilities-focused, person-centered dementia training is a requirement for all who serve our elders. Good training enables caregivers to help people with dementia and their families to successfully coexist with the disease, rather than suffer from its effects.
One of the key factors in making this happen is mandating such education in curriculums for nurses, therapists, doctors, social workers, nursing aides, and other care professionals. When we have the skills to optimize the function, safety, and quality of life of those with dementia, we see great cost savings, improved quality outcomes, and increased well-being for all, including both those with ADRD and those who care for them.
It is vital that we provide support to persons with dementia and their care partners who are dealing with the disease today. We, the clinicians and caregivers, must work feverishly to help the millions of individuals with dementia to thrive, not to simply exist. We welcome your partnership in the days and years to come!