New dementia-friendly communities serve patients and their families
Ric Edelman: It's Wednesday, May 10th. I want to give you an update on Alzheimer's disease. We don't have a cure yet. And so people are recognizing that it's likely a cure is going to take quite a long while. And we have so many people who already have Alzheimer's, 6 million alone here in the United States. We need to focus on living with Alzheimer's disease. And so what's under development right now? Living spaces specifically designed for people with dementia. There are communities around the world being developed that are creating models of care that encourage autonomy and accomplishment. The premise is that the traditional nursing home model is simply out of date. It doesn't work for Alzheimer's patients or those with dementia.
In New Zealand, for example, there's a village where seven residents share a house. They can shop for groceries, cook together, do their laundry, meet friends at a cafe, walk along the lake or do gardening. And all of this with support from staff in France. There's a village that has 120 residents. They live in 16 houses on a four-acre campus. The architecture is designed to reduce confusion. There are no dead-end hallways or streets. There are no mirrors and signs have images instead of words. People walk around town and you can't tell the difference between patients and doctors or volunteers because none of the doctors or volunteers wear uniforms.
In the Netherlands, a company tore down a nursing home and replaced it with a new community houses, restaurant, pub, theater and a supermarket. Doctors, nurses and dementia specialists let the residents set their own rhythm for the day instead of having to live by a rigid schedule that's imposed on them, like what happens in nursing homes. There are now similar communities in Australia, Canada, Italy, Norway and yes, they are coming to the US. The first one is being planned in New Jersey. All of these facilities cost a lot more than traditional nursing homes and we don't know yet whether any of this actually reduces symptoms.
There's a study going on at one of the villages in France, and in New Zealand. They say that people who moved there from a traditional nursing home became less agitated and needed fewer medications. Meanwhile, we're hopeful that this trend is going to grow and that it will prove to have. And that it will prove to have health benefits.
Meanwhile, work continues on finding a cure. There's a team at Washington University in St. Louis that says they have used focused ultrasound to release biomarkers from the brain, and that can help scientists figure out how Alzheimer's disease is caused.
And there is already one drug on the market that treats Alzheimer's. It's Leqembi. The VA, The Veterans Administration has announced they are now covering it. There are almost 170,000 veterans who receive care from the Veterans Administration for Alzheimer's disease. If you have a parent or a spouse who's a veteran, they might now be eligible for this drug. In studies, the drug showed that it slowed cognitive decline by 27%, and veterans can now get the drug virtually for free.
So progress…but we still have a long way to go.
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