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Support Caregivers, Cut Alzheimer's Bills: Witness to Congress

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Coping with the effects of dementia on aging populations is a problem for in every country in the world.

The House Financial Affairs Committee global health subcommittee recognized the broad impact of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia Wednesday, by holding a hearing on the global fight against dementia.

Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J., the subcommittee chairman, said dementia now affects about 47 million people throughout the world, and that the number of people affected could rise to 131 million by 2050. Dementia already costs the world about $818 billion per year, he said.

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Michael Splaine, an Alzheimer’s consultant who testified at the hearing, estimated that cost of coping with dementia eats up about 1% of the world’s $80 trillion in annual gross domestic product.

Several witnesses talked about the need to provide generous funding for Alzheimer’s research.

Mary Mittelman, a research professor at New York University, suggested that one way to help families and patients, and save money, quickly would be to provide regular counseling session for the relatives caring for loved ones with dementia, either through in-person visits or through telemedicine systems.

New York University tried offering regular family counseling sessions.

Counseling for family caregivers appeared to put off the time when people with dementia ended up in nursing homes by an average of about 18 months, Mittelman said.

“This is a really powerful intervention,” Mittelman said.

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