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Federal Funding and Research Efforts on Alzheimer’s Disease

Post written by BFH Staff Writer on October 4, 2023
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John had always been a sharp and independent man. He was married for 50 years before his beloved wife passed away. After her death, his daughter, Sarah, moved in with him to help him with daily tasks. However, Sarah soon noticed that her father was experiencing lapses in memory. John often forgot where he put his keys or whether he had eaten breakfast that morning.

Sarah became increasingly concerned about her father’s health and took him to a doctor for testing. The results showed John had Alzheimer’s, a progressive brain disorder affecting memory and cognitive function.

As John’s memory continued to decline, he experienced more challenges in his day-to-day life. He became disoriented and would frequently get lost on walks around his neighborhood. He also needed help remembering essential events or conversations, making keeping up with his financial and medical responsibilities challenging.

Meanwhile, Sarah had to adjust her life to become a full-time caregiver for her father. She had to take time off from her job and put her personal life on hold to provide John with the necessary care. She regularly reminded him to shower, eat, and take his medication. At night, Sarah would sleep with one ear open, worried about any mishaps her father might have while she was asleep.

Sarah also noticed that her father’s personality was changing. He would become agitated and frustrated more quickly than before and lash out in anger at times. She struggled to understand how to communicate with him effectively and ensure they met his needs while also managing her mental and emotional well-being.

Despite the challenges, Sarah was determined to provide the best care for her father as his Alzheimer’s disease progressed. She contacted support groups for caregivers to learn coping strategies and get advice. She also worked with John’s doctor to explore different treatment options and ensure he received the care.

Ultimately, it was a difficult and emotional journey for John and his daughter. Alzheimer’s disease took away many things he held dear, and Sarah had to grapple with the pain of watching her father lose his independence. Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological condition that affects millions of individuals worldwide, and its impact extends to those diagnosed and their families and caregivers. Thousands of caregivers like Sarah are experiencing similar challenges in the USA daily.

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. According to a 2021 report by the Alzheimer’s Association, over 6 million Americans aged 65 and older are currently living with Alzheimer’s, which is projected to rise to nearly 13 million. If the government cannot address this issue, this number can increase to almost 13 million by 2050. 

As the global population ages, the prevalence of Alzheimer’s can rise, making it a pressing public health concern. Experts, caregivers, and psychologists have identified the need to create robust policies to support this community, encourage research programs, and implement procedures to ease navigation through Alzheimer’s disease. 

The government is taking meaningful actions to respond to this rising crisis. Federal funding and research efforts on Alzheimer’s have gained momentum in recent years. In this article, we’ll explore the significance of federal funding and the ongoing research initiatives to understand, prevent, and ultimately find a cure for Alzheimer’s.

 The Role of Federal Funding

Federal funding plays a pivotal role in advancing Alzheimer’s research and care. The U.S. government, through agencies like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute on Aging (NIA), has consistently increased funding for Alzheimer’s research in recent years. By funding grants and studies, the NIH and NIA support groundbreaking research to understand better the causes, risk factors, and mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease. They also support clinical trials and studies to explore potential treatments and interventions for the disease. In 2021, the NIH allocated approximately $3.1 billion for Alzheimer’s and related dementia research, marking a significant commitment to understanding the disease. The NIH and NIA also provide resources and information for individuals, families, caregivers, and healthcare professionals through the ADEAR Center (Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center), which offers free publications and answers inquiries about Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. 

Federal funding supports various research efforts, including basic science, clinical trials, and translational studies. These investments facilitate the development of a deeper understanding of Alzheimer’s disease, its risk factors, and potential treatments. 

Key Research Initiatives

Early Detection and Diagnosis

One of the critical areas of research focus is the early detection of Alzheimer’s. Early diagnosis allows for interventions that can slow down the progression of the disease. The U.S. federal government is actively promoting research on early detection and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. 

Initiatives from NAPA

One of the major initiatives is the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA), which was signed into law in 2011. The goal of NAPA is to find a cure or effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease by 2025 and improve the lives of those affected. Within NAPA, they specifically emphasized early detection and diagnosis as a critical tool for effective treatment.

Initiatives from APMI and NeuroMAP

The Alzheimer’s and Neurodegeneration Precision Medicine Initiative (APMI) and the Neurodegeneration Medicines Acceleration Program (NeuroMAP) are also federal research programs to develop tools to diagnose and understand Alzheimer’s disease. These programs aim to identify biomarkers that can predict or diagnose Alzheimer’s disease years before clinical symptoms appear.

Early Detection of Neurodegenerative Diseases (EDoN) and the Federal Government’s collaboration

One of the research programs currently underway is the Early Detection of Neurodegenerative Diseases (EDoN) initiative, funded by the U.K. government and the charity the U.S. federal government supports Alzheimer’s Research U.K. EDoN aims to develop a large-scale research platform to help researchers build better diagnostic tests and more effective therapies for Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Precision Medicine

Alzheimer’s is a complex disease with multiple underlying causes. Researchers are working on personalized treatment approaches considering an individual’s genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. Federal funding supports studies aimed at tailoring treatments to the unique needs of patients.

Precision Medicine Initiative (APMI)

One example is the Alzheimer Precision Medicine Initiative (APMI), which focuses on developing new precision pharmacological approaches for Alzheimer’s disease treatment. APMI fosters drug discovery and development, leveraging precision medicine principles and pathway-based therapies

Research on the effectiveness of precision medicine 

Additionally, research studies are determining the effectiveness of precision medicine approaches in Alzheimer’s disease. For instance, a proof-of-concept trial assesses whether a precision medicine approach, which identifies and targets potential contributors to cognitive decline, can effectively treat Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment.

       

Clinical Trials

Federal funding enables the initiation and support of clinical trials for potential Alzheimer’s treatments. These trials are essential for testing the safety and efficacy of new drugs and interventions. 

The National Institute on Aging (NIA) supports 462 ongoing clinical trials on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (AD/ADRD). These trials cover a range of drug targets and mechanisms and are conducted at various stages of AD/ADRD. 

The Alzheimer’s Association also provides resources and information on clinical trials for Alzheimer’s and dementia. Through their TrialMatch program, they help match individuals with ongoing clinical trials that best suit their specific needs and conditions. 

The Alzheimer’s community eagerly expects breakthroughs that may result from these trials.

 

Caregiver Support

Alzheimer’s affects not only those with the disease but also their caregivers. Federal funding supports programs and services to assist caregivers in providing the best possible care and improving their well-being.

Alzheimer’s Association: 

While not a federal government organization, the Alzheimer’s Association is a vital caregiver resource. The association offers information, support services, and educational materials for caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Their local chapters nationwide provide support groups and programs to assist caregivers at various stages of the disease. 

National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP): 

The NFCSP provides grants to states and territories to fund various supports for family and informal caregivers of older adults. These supports aim to help caregivers care for older adults at home for as long as possible. The program offers respite care, counseling, and caregiver training. 

Federal Agencies: 

The federal government has taken actions to support family caregivers, including those caring for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. Federal agencies have developed initiatives to improve financial and workplace security for family caregivers, promote research and evidence-based practices, and outline actions that agencies can take to support caregivers.

Public Awareness

Federal agencies work to raise public awareness about Alzheimer’s disease, reducing the stigma associated with it and promoting early diagnosis. This initiative encourages affected individuals to seek medical attention and participate in research studies.

These resources and initiatives from the federal government are designed to provide caregivers with valuable information and support as they navigate the challenges of caring for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. Caregivers can access these resources to find guidance, connect with support networks, and access necessary services to help them in their caregiving journey.

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