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Medical groups agree: Resources for treating Alzheimer's patients are available but underutilized

  [ 24 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ] • December 6, 2002

ST. PAUL, MN (December 5, 2002) -- Care of people with Alzheimer’s disease is a challenging task but can be improved, according to seven medical organizations that met to discuss strengths and potential pitfalls in the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer's disease.

Meeting recently in Chicago, the American Academy of Neurology, Alzheimer's Association, American Medical Association, American Association of Geriatric Psychiatry, American Geriatric Society, American Medical Directors Association and the World Federation of Neurology determined that more than two dozen practice guidelines exist to provide guidance to clinicians, yet many may not be taking advantage of the guidelines available.

"There is a lot known about caring for people with Alzheimer's disease and a lot of resources are available," according to Stephen McConnell, a principal with the Alzheimer's Association. "However, we are concerned that many clinicians may not be aware of the guidelines and are not utilizing them in their practices."

Attendees (including executive directors, board members, and presidents of medical groups that provide services to Alzheimer's patients and their families) determined that there is widespread agreement among the guidelines, and advised that it would be helpful if clinicians who care for people with Alzheimer’s disease obtain and follow the guidelines provided by their specialty society. Doing so may improve the quality of care provided to these patients. They also agreed on the importance of incorporating practice guidelines into medical education, accreditation, certification and re-certification programs.

With the number of people with Alzheimer's expected to swell from 4 million in 2002, to about 14 million by 2050, "We need to provide tools to help more physicians diagnose and treat people dealing with this devastating disease," said Catherine Rydell, executive director and CEO of the American Academy of Neurology. Representatives of the seven organizations emphasized the following important principles in caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease:

Alzheimer’s disease is recognizable and can be differentiated from normal aging by clinicians; symptoms are usually first identified by family members and should be reported to their doctors.

Alzheimer’s disease can be diagnosed with 95 percent accuracy, the same as appendicitis.

Effective care options exist and can improve quality of life for patients and their caregivers.

Resources exist in the community for people with dementia and their caregivers and are important elements to quality care.

"Clinicians may make a difference in the quality of life of patients with Alzheimer's disease if they follow guideline recommendations," said Rydell.

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