An Alzheimer’s cure is expected to be ready by 2025 and perhaps even by 2020, two years from now. However, the U.S. healthcare system may not be prepared if that happens, according to a new study by the RAND Corp.
RAND found that more dementia specialists are needed to diagnose early Alzheimer’s and confirm that patients are eligible for therapy. Other system shortcomings include a low number of specialized scanning devices and few infusion centers to deliver treatments to an increasing ageing population.
Alzheimer’s disrupts memory, language, thinking and reasoning, referred to as cognitive symptoms. While, behavioral and psychiatric symptoms describes a large group of additional symptoms that occur to many individuals with Alzheimer’s.
In early stages of the disease, people may experience personality changes such as irritability, anxiety or depression. Later on, other symptoms may occur, including sleep disturbances; agitation such as physical or verbal outbursts, emotional distress, restlessness, pacing, shredding paper or tissues, and yelling. Moreover, serious affects such as delusions (firmly held belief in things that are not real); or hallucinations (seeing, hearing or feeling things that are not there), also may occur.
Many individuals with Alzheimer’s and their families find these symptoms to be the most challenging effects of the disease. These symptoms are often a determining factor in a family’s decision to place a loved one in a skilled nursing home facility.
Alzheimer’s: Get Your Facility Ready For The Cure
Rand Corp. urges hospitals and skilled nursing facilities get their organizations ready for the Alzheimer’s cure by implementing these recommendations:
- Train primary care physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants to conduct initial screenings for mild cognitive impairment. Currently, there is a shortage of medical specialists.
- Encourage primary care physicians, and psychiatrists to become certified in dementia care so they can provide advanced testing and treatment.
- Use telehealth to increase opportunities for diagnosis by enabling primary care physician access to specialists.
- Establish mobile positron emission tomography (PET) scanning clinics to confirm brain changes caused by Alzheimer’s. This service will reach more patients.
- Build more clinics, expand current clinics, offer infusion services in doctor offices, as well as in senior living communities. Most of the treatments under development for Alzheimer’s are biologic drugs that will need to be injected or infused.
- Skilled nursing homes that currently provide in-house dialysis, could also set up Alzheimer’s in-house infusion centers that would benefit their community.
The medical community eagerly anticipates an Alzheimer’s cure breakthrough within the next few years. Trained personnel and facilities will need to be expanded and increased to successfully handle the growing ageing population.