AAGP Guest Post: Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia

AAGP Guest Post: Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia

09.12.12 | By Preet Bilinski

Below is a guest blog post from Chris deVries, the Chief Executive Officer/Executive Vice-President of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry (AAGP). AAGP is a national association representing and serving its members and the field of geriatric psychiatry and promotes the mental health and well-being of older people.

Chris' post is very timely in that tonight at the Research and Hope Awards we will be honoring individuals and organizations who have contributed significantly to the advancement of hope and research in the fight against Alzheimer's disease.

We have all heard the statistics.

  • One in eight older Americans has Alzheimer's disease.
  • Alzheimer's disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.
  • Over 15 million Americans provide unpaid care for a person with Alzheimer's or other dementias.
  • Payments for care are estimated to be $200 billion in 2012.

We have an epidemic on our hands. Most patients and their families view the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease as a death sentence. They throw up their hands accepting immediate defeat. It is understandable, yet there is hope. As an association devoted to improving the care of older adults with mental and neurological illnesses, the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry (AAGP) and our members are involved with a myriad of activities to make sure that those with a current diagnosis of dementia receive the best standard of care in today's health care system. For those patients who may face a future diagnosis of dementia, many of AAGP's members are at the frontlines of research and drug development for Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. It cannot be denied that it has been a bit disheartening that despite the extensive research and development efforts in recent years and the wide range of approaches taken by researchers, progress on drug development for dementia has been painfully slow. It is encouraging, however, that these research efforts continue to be a priority of many researchers and companies. The "don't give up" attitude is evident every day.

In the meantime, AAGP's priorities are focused on ensuring that those with a current diagnosis of dementia receive the best dementia care known today. Through multiple mediums, AAGP provides quality educational programs to clinicians who are "in the trenches" treating the patients and, with dementia care, often their families. Educational topics range from diagnosis of dementia; development of assessment and care plans; caring for dementia patients in the nursing home; distinguishing between types of dementias; treating the behavioral symptoms that often accompany dementia, supporting the caregiver; to ensuring that the end-of-life care is dignified and respectful. There are evidence-based treatments that currently exist for patients with dementia that include both pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions. Patients with a diagnosis of dementia can live a fulfilled life, but it is imperative that all clinicians that care for patients with dementia understand the full range of treatment options as well as family supports that can make such a difference in the quality of life.

Research and provider education must go hand in hand as we move forward in this country to address the worldwide epidemic of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. It is gratifying to see so many individuals and groups - on a global scale - devoted to both research and education, as well as finding an eventual cure. AAGP is proud to be among this group with the passion and dedication to care for those with dementia today and to work for the future for improved options for providers, patients, and families.

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