Friday, January 14, 2011

Dollars And Sense

It's always good news when a state decides to take a positive step towards solving a problem before things get totally out of hand. Minnesota has just taken such a positive step with respect to the devastating costs of Alzheimer's.

The number of Minnesotans with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia will swell from 88,000 now to 198,000 in the next 30 years, with the prospect that state coffers, families and employers could be overwhelmed by the stress and costs of care, according to a report that will be delivered to the Legislature on Thursday. ...

With average annual medical costs for an Alzheimer’s patient running about $33,000 — triple that of similar people without dementia — cutting expenses even by $5,000 per patient could save $44 million a year.

The report (which can be found here) combines common sense and innovation in its proposals to cut the financial and personal burdens of living with Alzheimer's.

The report’s first proposal: Train and encourage doctors to detect Alzheimer’s disease early — something often resisted both by doctors and families — which could save the state an average of $10,000 per patient a year.

“There is no cure, but with early detection, treatment can slow the decline by 12 to 18 months for more than half of patients,” said Michelle Barclay , a vice president at the state Alzheimer’s Association, which helped staff the 20-member group appointed by the Legislature in 2009. The group met for 15 months and involved about 100 others to develop the report. ...

Other recommendations include: Require cognitive screening for all Minnesotans 65 and older in state-paid health programs; create a “dementia clearinghouse website” with information for families and professionals; adopt a state “gold standard” for dementia care, and reinstate a geriatrics medical education program at the University of Minnesota.

No, the report doesn't have the sex appeal of the announcement of a medical breakthrough in treatment or cure, but we all know that such a breakthrough is still far down the road. The report does provide, however, some practical suggestions which will bring not only cost savings to the state but also relief to the family care givers who are too often exhausted and ground down by the burdens of Alzheimer's in a loved one.

This is an important first step, and the Minnesota state legislature will hopefully implement the suggested proposals now, before the costs are insurmountable. Other states and the federal government would also do well to study the report and to initiate some of the proposals for the same reasons.

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Blogger shrimplate said...

Words cannot convey the depth of my hatred for Alzheimer's disease. Any efforts to postpone its progress are quite welcome to me, as a nurse who often has to deal with demented patients.

7:51 AM  
Blogger Caro said...

What a shame that they don't also encourage the lifestyle changes that also seem to delay, if not prevent, the disease.

Carolyn Kay

8:05 AM  

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