National war on Alzheimer’s disease brings hope to patients and caregivers

In Washington D.C. this week, researchers and patient advocates are giving feedback on what will become the nation’s war on Alzheimer’s disease, which aims to prevent and treat the disease by 2025.

The Department of Health and Human Services released a draft Framework for the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease on January 9. After receiving feedback, the final draft is expected late January or early February, according to a story in U.S.A. Today. That story goes on to quote Carol Blackwell, whose husband has the disease and whose family has experienced the financial burden of high medical costs and reduced income:

“My mother-in-law has been in a facility for 15 years,” Carol Blackwell says. “In 2005, after her husband died … she’d used up all her money (for care), and Bob had to file for Medicaid for her. She’s been living at the government’s expense since then. We have to prevent those costs down the road.”

There are 5 million people living in the U.S. with Alzheimer’s disease, and 15 million people estimated to be providing care for family members with the disease. The emotional and economic toll from the disease can be devastating. CIRM board member Leeza Gibbons cared for her own mother, then went on to write the award-winning book “Take Your Oxygen First” to help other caregivers care for themselves. She also started Leeza’s Place to provide support for caregivers. She writes:

Life doesn’t always go as planned. The people we love get sick, they get diseases and we often feel helpless to do anything about it. When you are a husband or wife, son or daughter, brother, sister or friend who takes care of someone in your family or someone you love, chances are you need help too. That’s where we come in…

Leeza Gibbons and other patient advocate board members keep CIRM’s eye on the end goal of accelerating new therapies. CIRM has funded eight projects with a focus on Alzheimer’s disease, worth a total of $11 million. This page describes the CIRM-funded projects and includes a list of grants and other resources describing stem cell-based approaches to treating the disease.

The U.S. draft framework came out during what is also Canada’s Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. The Canadian Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq posted a message about the month:

Alzheimer’s disease, or related dementia, affects an estimated 500,000 Canadians, and statistics predict that this number will double within a generation. Fortunately, for every person living with Alzheimer’s disease, there are also many family members and friends providing care and support.

A major national push to treat Alzheimer’s disease will help all those people with the disease and their family members avoid the associated heartache and economic loss.

This video discusses advances in a stem cell-based therapy for Alzheimer’s by a CIRM funded team at University of California, Irvine:

A.A.

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