In December, Hillary Clinton became the first presidential candidate to make fighting Alzheimer's Disease a campaign issue. On December 22nd, she announced a plan to invest $2 billion per year until 2025 toward a cure to Alzheimer's. Clinton stated that 10 years was the minimum amount of time prominent researchers predict it will take to make significant progress.
Alzheimer’s research received $588 million from federal funding in 2014, which according to Clinton is less than 1% of the yearly cost of the disease. While 2016's budget allocated an additional $350 million more toward the disease, Hillary argues this is not enough. To raise funds, she says she will close tax loopholes, although she does not say which ones. Hillary and Bill have personally taken full advantage of Estate Tax loopholes, so it will be interesting to see if she gets rid of those.
While the cost of research may seem high, Clinton hopes to offset the growing cost of caring for individuals with Alzheimer's or other kinds of dementia - much of which is borne by medicare. Treatments for Alzheimer's would also benefit family members and caregivers, who often find themselves completely unprepared to deal with the emotional and financial burden of caring for someone with severe dementia.
According to The Alzheimer's Association, studies estimate that nearly 15 million people aged 65 and older will have Alzheimer's disease by 2050. Clinton notes that each of those individuals would need the support of caregivers and family. Clinton stated:
"We owe it to the millions of families who stay up at night worrying about their loved ones afflicted by this terrible disease and facing the hard reality of the long goodbye to make research investments that will prevent, effectively treat and make a cure possible by 2025," Clinton said. "The best scientific minds tell us we have a real chance to make groundbreaking progress on curing the disease and relieving the pain so many families feel every day."
Clinton had previously come out as an advocate for comprehensive Alzheimer's care planning services. When one receives a diagnosis of Alzheimer's or other form of dementia, the importance of planning cannot be overstated. There are two parts to care planning: the medical side and the financial side. In most cases, the two overlap. Clinton says she will focus on ensuring comprehensive care-planning sessions are covered by Medicare, along with promoting coordinated care among physicians. The financial part is something you'll want to discuss with an Elder Law attorney, as Medicare and Medi-Cal will often pay for long term care. The process of qualifying for Medi Cal is extremely complex however, and should be facilitated by an experienced California attorney who specializes in Medi Cal for long term care.
Clinton also wants to reauthorize the Missing Alzheimer's Disease Patient Alert Program, which helps locate patients who may be prone to wandering. Needless to say, those Alzheimer's patients who are prone to wander may be in need of a more comprehensive care facility, which can often be paid for by Medi-Cal. National statistics state that 6/10 sufferers will wander at some point in a state of disorientation. The risks posed by wandering are life threatening, and this is perhaps the most critical reason that care for individuals with dementia must be planned for in advance.
Clinton also wants to increase awareness among seniors about Medicare (Medi Cal) benefits available to them. In my personal practice, I help families rearrange assets to qualify for Medi Cal, as well as advise them on how to avoid the state from seizing their assets when the individual on Medi Cal passes away. This is an excellent example of a benefit offered to Californians that is little known about.
While I can't personally speak to the realities of finding a cure for dementia by 2025, I appreciate Clinton's efforts to bring more attention to a disease that continues to devastate the lives of so many who do not have the resources and tools to cope with it.