The Alzheimer’s Association notes that an early diagnosis allows patients the option to start taking medication for symptoms, make lifestyle changes, and participate in clinical trials. What’s more, diagnosing Alzheimer’s as early as possible would likely save the U.S. trillions in medical and long-term care costs for the degenerative disease, which can cause memory loss, cognitive impairment, hallucinations and, eventually, death.
So, how can the U.S. prepare for the influx of Alzheimer’s patients, besides continuing to search for a cure? The Alzheimer’s Association report recommended several policy strategies that could help meet future demand:
- Offer scholarship and loan forgiveness programs, which incentivize people to attend medical and nursing schools, and to practice in rural areas.
- Boost educational funding: “For example, federal funding of departments of family medicine at U.S. medical schools is associated with an expansion of the primary care workforce.”
- Support programs that build capacity in primary care: “One example is Project ECHO® (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes), a highly successful tele-mentoring program for health care providers developed by the University of New Mexico. Project ECHO has been shown to improve primary care for multiple diseases, including hepatitis C606 and complex diabetes.”