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Alzheimer’s treatment and prevention; Family caregivers

Medicare Alzheimer Brain Scans
Matt York/AP
/
AP
FILE - In this Aug. 14, 2018 file photo, a doctor looks at PET brain scans in Phoenix. A big study to help Medicare officials decide whether to start covering brain scans to check for Alzheimer’s disease missed its goals for curbing emergency room visits and hospitalizations. The results announced Thursday, July 30, 2020 call into question whether the costly tests are worth it for a disease that currently has no cure. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

An estimated 6.2 million Americans live with Alzheimer's — and that number is growing. The recent spike in cases makes Alzheimer’s the nation’s sixth-leading cause of death, killing more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.

The spike in cases has left doctors and researchers wondering what preventative measures people can take to avoid an Alzheimer’s diagnosis while searching for the best methods to care for those already diagnosed.

Guests:

  • Dr. Gregory Day, Mayo Clinic neurologist, who specializes in reversible causes of dementia
  • Dr. Neill Graff-Radford, Mayo Clinic neurologist, who specializes in Alzheimer’s disease prevention and treatment  

National Family Caregivers Month

November is National Family Caregivers Month, dedicated to honoring family caregivers, raising awareness about, educating communities, addressing financial disparities, and increasing support for caregivers.

Millennials and Generation X find themselves acting as caregivers more frequently than previous generations. Between caring for aging family members and their own children, they’ve been dubbed the “Sandwich Generation.”

More than 11 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. In 2020, these caregivers provided an estimated 15.3 billion hours of care valued at nearly $257 billion, prompting the HOPE for Alzheimer's Act, which requires Medicare to pay for an individual care plan for newly diagnosed Alzheimer's patients.

This benefit encourages doctors to give a clear diagnosis to patients with Alzheimer's disease, including information about treatment options and what medical and community services are available.

Early on in the pandemic, Florida nursing homes and memory care centers were shut off to visitors for the safety of the residents. Both residents and their families grew lonely and yearned for connection. Mary Daniel found a creative way to see her husband, who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, while everyone else was shut out. She applied for a job to wash dishes at his center so she could see him directly. Her story made headlines and she was appointed to the State’s Long Term Care Task Force.

Guest: Mary Daniel, former Long Term Care Task Force member

Florida Roundup Associate Producer Katherine Hobbs can be reached at khobbs@wjct.org or on Twitter at @KatherineGHobbs.