Preparing for the
Some are calling it the “silver tsunami” — the wave of Americans living longer than previous generations. It’s great news on the longevity front, but not for a health-care system that is unprepared for the repercussions of an aging population.
Alzheimer’s disease is one of the challenges for which the nation is not ready. Today, one in
eight older Americans has Alzheimer’s, and the risk of developing the brain disorder doubles
every five years after age 65. Although most people will not develop Alzheimer’s, 6. 7 million are
expected to have the disease by 2025 — 30 percent more than today. Without more effective
planning and programs in place, the costs and burdens of Alzheimer’s care could overwhelm the
health-care system and families of people with this disease.
To address a possible crisis, President Obama signed into law the National Alzheimer’s Project
Act in 2011. To implement the law, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services (DHHS), Kathleen Sebelius, established the National Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s
Research, Care, and Services. This public-private advisory council makes recommendations to the
secretary related to ways that federal programs could improve care and services for people with
Alzheimer’s and their families. The council also makes recommendations for research
and setting funding priorities for prevention, education, diagnosis and treatment
strategies. The result — the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease — was
unveiled by DHHS in May.