San Francisco, CA (Law Firm Newswire) August 31, 2017 – State and federal guidelines have been updated to improve diagnosis and care for patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
The California Department of Public Health recently released new Alzheimer’s guidelines for the first time since 2008. The update reflects scientific progress, as well as changes in clinical practice and laws. The guidelines are designed to help doctors and other medical professionals document and diagnose the progressive disease more easily. They will also be able to direct patients to relevant community-based programs and services.
“Alzheimer’s is a medical condition that is likely to have a significant emotional and financial impact on patients, families and caregivers,” commented nationally known estate planning attorney Michael Gilfix. “Getting diagnosed earlier can not only lead to better treatment, but also enable families to be more prepared for the financial demands of the disease by developing a long-term care plan to address caregiving and other needs.”
At the federal level, Medicare has started to reimburse physicians and medical providers who evaluate patients for cognitive decline and assist families with dementia care planning. The new Medicare funding and care guidelines took effect after being in the works for over five years.
Dr. Charles DeCarli, director of the UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center, described the newly issued guidelines as a “game changer.” He is hoping they lead to improved care for patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia. DeCarli said, “Too many people who could be treated are not being diagnosed and therefore not getting effective treatment. We’ve got more techniques now that can help us diagnose it earlier and more effectively, and offer more specific treatment.”
The efforts to improve Alzheimer’s diagnosis come as the disease continues to affect the lives of a growing number of aging Americans. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, over 630,000 people in California currently have Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. However, fewer than 50 percent have been diagnosed by a medical professional.
During annual wellness checks with patients, the guidelines urge California primary care physicians to monitor and assess changes in patients’ cognitive abilities, identify their main caregiver, evaluate the adequacy of family support and discuss the disease’s progression. In addition, caregivers will be aided by new tools and community resources such as respite daycare, local support groups and classes on how to handle the day-to-day challenges of caring for individuals with Alzheimer’s.
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