Clinicians, Politicians Call For Increased Alzheimer's Awareness

Megan Ray  |  January 15, 2014

A recent op-ed collaboration between Senator Susan Collins and Mayo Clinic Director of Alzheimer's research Ronald Petersen called for renewed emphasis on prioritizing research of the disease. Both the Maine senator and the Alzheimer's expert highlighted the human as well as the financial impacts that the disease has had on the U.S. over the past 50 years, and remarked on predictions for the future. The U.S. is not the only country, however, to voice concerns about a lack of funding for Alzheimer's care and research.

Ending Alzheimer's through research
According to Collins and Petersen, providing care for the more than 5 million people with Alzheimer's across the nation costs the U.S. approximately $200 billion per year, much of which accounts for Medicare and Medicaid funding. This number is anticipated to increase significantly as a growing number of baby boomers reach the range of ages within which the disease usually becomes symptomatic. As research funding for other conditions, like cancer and HIV/AIDS, continues to rise into the billions, the budget for Alzheimer's research remains significantly lower at less than $500 million. As the op-ed authors pointed out, many diseases have seen decreasing numbers of incidences that have been directly linked to higher funding. Collins and Petersen voiced hopes that the same could be true of Alzheimer's if more money were applied to researching the disease.

A global concern
In Canada, The Chronicle Herald recently ran a special report on the status of resources and funding for Alzheimer's patients and doctors across the country. According to the news source, a lack of funding in Canada has influenced everything from daily care for people with dementia to national research to diminish the disease. Like the U.S., Canada is experiencing an increasing number of cases of Alzheimer's as the national population ages, and the government has been criticized for not working fast enough to address the growing needs of older people and their caregivers. Politicians have responded by insisting that legislative and budgetary decisions are being made as quickly as possible.

"Having the legislation stay in sync with requirements is always a challenge for legislators," said Canadian Health Minister Leo Glavine. "But reviewing the legislation is a plan for this government, and in fact department work is already underway."

The news source also noted the additional stress placed on caregivers across the nation, many of whom feel overwhelmed by their growing responsibilities and diminishing resources. Similarly, the Parade contributors commented on the commitment shown by caregivers who "are often exhausted by an endless series of '36 hour' days." The human impact of Alzheimer's goes beyond that of individuals experiencing the disease and their caregivers. Millions of families each year face the difficulties associated with having a loved one with Alzheimer's. This can include determining day-to-day care options and dealing with their relative's changing demeanor and abilities.

Finding solutions together
Despite setbacks in funding, many remain hopeful about the future of Alzheimer's research and development. A Huffington Post contributor voiced optimism about the ability of people of varying political beliefs to find common ground when it comes to financing research of the disease, hoping that the point will prove an area of unity.

"In a time when reaching across the aisle is akin to treason, investing in Alzheimer's should be one thing that both parties can agree on," said Executive Director of the Global Coalition on Aging, Michael Hodin. "Health care spending is one of the trickiest, most decisive questions of modern life - yet for all the hard questions to answer, investing in Alzheimer's should be a no-brainer."

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