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Federal legislation looks to aid Alzheimer's patients, families

Apr 1, 2015

Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow is announcing legislation aimed to support those with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s known as the “HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act.”

Sen. Debbie Stabenow with members of the Alzheimer's Association.
Credit FLICKR USER SENATOR STABENOW / FLICKR

“This is a very important piece of what needs to be done, because it focuses on encouraging doctors to diagnose early and to do caregiver planning,” Stabenow said.

The caregiver planning piece of the act would introduce a benefit under Medicare in which all caregivers together would be informed of available resources, of possible courses of action and of expectations they should have about the disease.

According to a national Alzheimer’s Association survey, there are many physicians in the country who abstain from telling patients their Alzheimer’s diagnosis. It’s reported that fewer than half of those with Alzheimer's are being diagnosed, or told, they have the disease by their doctor. The reasoning behind this? The survey reveals that doctors believe there’s nothing to be done about the disease. Stabenow, however, says that in this day that’s not true.

“This is very much a family disease, because the whole family is impacted by this, so we need to take the next step,” she said. “Make sure that people are getting diagnosed, that they know what’s available, and that we can start the process of supporting the family.”

Stabenow calls this act “a very important step.” In Michigan, 185,000 people have received an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. he added that $1 in every $5 Medicare spends is Alzheimer’s-related.  

“If we can make this a part of Medicare reimbursement, if we can reach out to physicians and say this is an expectation that people will be diagnosed, that you will do a caregiver planning session so that people know what’s available, it will be reimbursed under Medicare – that sends a very different signal,” she said.