Alzheimer’s Disease: Better Care Starts with Trusted Information
If you or someone you love has Alzheimer’s disease, your search for treatments or a cure may lead you to consider a range of unproven remedies. To be clear, there are medications, treatments and strategies that can slow declines and help people with the disease have the highest possible quality of life. But there are also countless sham remedies with no scientific evidence of effectiveness and with little information provided about potentially harmful side effects or drug interactions.
Jan Busby-Whitehead, MD, AGSF, is the M. Andrew Greganti Distinguished Professor, Chief of the Division of Geriatric Medicine, and Director of the Center for Aging and Health at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She also serves as Board Chair for the Health in Aging Foundation (HiAF), a national non-profit established in 1999 by the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) to bring the knowledge and expertise of geriatrics health care professionals to people as they age. She said that the HiAF was created, in part, to combat the vast amount of misinformation about Alzheimer’s, dementia and other aging-related conditions. The HiAF’s goal, she said, is to provide access to best practices and up-to-date clinical information.
“For years, we have seen vitamins, supplements and other purported Alzheimer’s treatments advertised in the media and online,” said Dr. Busby-Whitehead. “People who are searching for answers may be swayed by the advertisers’ claims, but they should be careful to vet the information fully through a credible and trusted resource like their family doctor, a geriatrician, or an organization like the Health in Aging Foundation.”
Geriatricians Provide Comprehensive Care for Complex Conditions
According to Dr. Busby-Whitehead, geriatricians are a vital part of a total care team for people living with Alzheimer’s disease. They can help patients and their caregivers separate fact from fiction when it comes to evidence-based Alzheimer’s treatments and the limitations of alternative remedies.
Geriatricians are doctors who are specially trained and board-certified to evaluate and manage the unique health care needs and treatment preferences of people as they age. They are pioneers in advanced-illness care for older individuals, with a focus on championing interprofessional teams, eliciting personal care goals and treating patients as whole people.
“Geriatricians provide comprehensive care for complex conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr. Busby-Whitehead said. “We treat the whole person, not just a single organ system or disease. We place the patient and their family at the center of the care we provide, and we pay special attention to the social and financial circumstances that can impact access to care and treatment compliance.”
Education for Older Adults and Their Caregivers
While the HiAF has a professional component that supports geriatrician trainees and recognizes achievements and leadership in geriatrics, it also operates a public education portal: HealthinAging.org, which provides older adults and caregivers with up-to-date information on health and aging, as well as access to a network of geriatrics health care professionals. All the tools on the site are regularly reviewed by geriatrics health care professionals and members of the AGS.
Not limited to Alzheimer’s, the site provides comprehensive resources including:
- Information on common diseases and disorders that affect people as they age.
- Specific considerations for older adults and caregivers managing multiple health conditions.
- Tip sheets with guidance and information.
- Ask the Expert insights from health care professionals.
- A What to Ask series that provides practical questions and tips to direct conversations with health care professionals.
- A Geriatrics Health Care Professional locator to find a local geriatrics provider.
- A Coronavirus (COVID-19) information hub.
“After spending some time on HealthinAging.org, I could not believe the amount of information contained on it,” said Amanda C., a caregiver from San Diego. “They have made a tremendous effort to distill technical and scientific information into a format and language that is easier to comprehend for most of us.”