The Milken Institute has just released their report which contains several practical solutions to control dementia. It suggests ways to help the 13 million men and women currently suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
The authors also provide suggestions for caregivers who carry a heavy burden taking care of these incapacitated patients.
The report recommends solutions that include the importance of a healthy diet, keeping seniors engaged-mentally, and developing a national detection strategy in Medicare.
Here’s a look at some of the major takeaways on the report in more detail.
Milken Institute: Reduce Dementia Risk With Good Diet
One of the report’s top recommendations is to increase awareness of eating healthy. A healthy diet reduces a senior citizens’ risk for diabetes heart disease, and high blood pressure. In addition, moderate exercise and no smoking also reduce risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s.
While such risk-reducing shifts are not a cure, medical experts say their benefits are still significant— and backed by science. Dr. Gary Small, director of the UCLA Longevity Center, says that healthy habits reduces your genetic risk for Alzheimer’s. Moreover, brain-scan research shows that memory centers of the brain grow stronger when older study participants follow a walking regimen. The report also notes that a healthy diet plus exercise improves heart health and reduces the number of new dementia cases.
This is good news as several estimates predict that up to 30 percent of dementia cases could be prevented through lifestyle changes. And, since dementia hits senior citizens hardest starting at age 75+ — delaying or mitigating the impact even by 5 years, would cut the number of new dementia cases by 50 percent!
Milken Institute: Early Detection
The Milken Institute recommends that doctors do early cognitive testing, starting at age 50. Annual cognitive testing can flag early-onset dementia and Alzheimer’s. And, several studies show that early detection and intervention does reduce and delays the severity of the disease. Early detection allows for immediate interventions, services and support.
Also, estimates show that early diagnosis at the in the mild cognitive impairment (MCI) stage, can save about 8 trillion dollars in U.S. health care expenditures.
Right now, however, less than half of people 65 and older receive an assessment, and only 16 percent get regular scheduled assessments. And, unfortunately, even for those that do get tested, many are not told of their diagnosis — even if they have dementia. Strange, but true.
Milken Institute: Improving The Caregiving
The final section of the report offers suggestions for improving dementia-related caregiving.
They recommend maintaining the federally funded Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program. This program integrates geriatrics expertise into caring for dementia patients. Experts train families, caregivers and health care practitioners on best practices for taking care of those with dementia.
In addition, they also recommend using the existing Medicare payment system to help deliver cost-effective, coordinated, and high-quality care.
The need for this human power and the money to pay for the program is great. The Milken researchers forecast a need for 3.4 million caregivers by 2030. Therefore, time is short; the need is great. Identifying and training competent caregivers is imperative. It’s also important for employers to provide flexible work schedules, respite care, and paid family and medical leave for employees providing care to a family member.