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A Look at the Future

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By Report by the AD Educ and Reseach Ctr • • March 21, 1999

Judith Assmus Riggs, director of public policy at the Alzheimer’s Association provided the final presentation at the event, outlining the challenges faced by individuals and the government to address AD. "Without even greater efforts," she declared, "Alzheimer’s disease is on its way to becoming a real public health disaster." Describing the toll of the progressive, long-term nature of AD, Ms. Riggs predicted that without adequate family resources, "there is no way our society can sustain 14 million baby boomers with AD."
Ms. Riggs described the Association’s three-part approach toward AD research and support. First, it aims to mobilize worldwide resources in the fight against AD, with the Association itself planning to triple its own investment in research–to $30 million–by the year 2001. That research will be targeted toward the goals of finding more effective treatments, delaying onset of the disease, and prevention. Ms. Riggs also announced that in the year 2000, the Association will host the largest ever international meeting on AD–bringing together thousands of researchers, practitioners, and policy makers. (More information on that conference and a report on the event will be provided in the upcoming issue of Connections.)
The second goal of the Association is to provide–through its 200 U.S. chapters–essential community services, including information and referral, helpline services, and community education. Ms. Riggs noted that these information and outreach activities are one way the Association makes sure that research is disseminated where it counts. Translation of research and learning to the "real world" through direct contact with patients, families, and support groups, helps to ensure that "studies don’t end up only in academic journals," she said.
Lastly, Ms. Riggs said, the current challenge is to expand support for AD treatment and care in public and private health and long-term care insurance programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, and managed care. The Medicare system, lacking a long-term care component, "discriminates" against AD and other diseases requiring long-term care. The financial and logistical burden of families is significant and growing, she said, suggesting that a national dialogue on long-term care is critically needed.
Ms. Riggs left the journalists with a dramatic take-home message. "Unless science goes even faster than it already is, very few of us in this room will escape the experiences of AD"–either as a person with the disease, as a caregiver, or as someone dealing with an afflicted loved one. "As you’ve heard today," she concluded, "exciting progress is continually being made in the Alzheimer’s disease puzzle." With this continued pace, it is hoped that researchers will one day soon be able to lessen the enormous burdens associated with this disease.

Source: Connections Magazine [Volume 8(1), Spring 1999]

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