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News Opinion Readers Respond

Alzheimer's testing is essential [Letter]

In his letter to the editor in response to Alliance for Aging Research's CEO Sue Peschin's commentary, "Alzheimer's again gets the short shrift" (April 14), Dr. Andy Lazris of Columbia contends that since there are no effective treatments for Alzheimer's disease there should be no testing ("Screening for Alzheimer's carries its own risks," April 17). We could not disagree more.

There is much both an individual and family can do if they get the devastating news of an Alzheimer's diagnosis. Early identification of cognitive impairment allows individuals and their families to receive care at an earlier stage in the disease process, obtain supportive social services and discuss end-of-life care. These interventions hold the promise of better care outcomes and improved quality of life as well as reduced health care costs for both diagnosed individuals and their family caregivers.

Cognitive screening, moreover, is not a diagnosis. Rather, it's a simple and safe evaluation that assesses memory and other intellectual functions and indicates whether additional testing is necessary. It can be done in a physician's office or in a community setting such as a senior center or pharmacy. Memory screening is gaining ground thanks to increased awareness about Alzheimer's disease, as well as the new Medicare annual wellness visit which includes a cognitive assessment.

In light of an aging population at risk for Alzheimer's disease, our nation must take viable steps toward early detection. We agree with Ms. Peschin's contention that government cannot give "lukewarm response" to the growing dementia population. While some government agencies are actively working toward a solution, policy and funding roadblocks continue to exist that undermine the positive strides being made as we implement the first-ever "National Plan to Address Alzheimer's Disease." We need to come together as a society and government to confront this crisis head-on.

Charles J. Fuschillo Jr., New York

The writer is CEO of the Alzheimer's Foundation of America.

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