It was reported yesterday that there are new guidelines for Alzheimer's disease. The first article I read was in the New York Times, and I wrote about the guidelines on Katten & Benson's blog.
The most important part of the story, however, is lost in a short paragraph in the middle of the story. It was reported that Congress has introduced a bill that will create specific cost codes for Alzheimer's disease for Medicare. These codes would allow doctors to be paid for having discussions with family members and caregivers. This is significant, because as the article states, "keeping family members well-informed can result in better planning and care."
It is amazing to me that it has taken this long for this to be recognized. In the social work class I teach, we talked last week about setting goals. Professionals are really good at setting goals--our goals. We often forget that we need to be setting goals that are consistent with what our client/patient wants. This becomes difficult with that person with dementia, especially when they want to stay at home alone, when clearly that is no longer an option. I told my students that when working with dementia clients, the "client" at some point changes from the person with dementia, to the family/caregiver. At that point, we must then revise the goals. We still must address the person with dementia's goals, but the family/caregiver's goals often become primary.
I think allowing doctors to have these discussions with the family are a step in the right direction.