How Could The New Alzheimer’s Criteria Affect My Care And Access To Services

Proposed new criteria to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease could affect how many people have the condition and their access to services and government benefits. Individuals with mild and very mild Alzheimer’s disease could be categorized as having mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which doctors say is the stage between loss of mental function and dementia.

The National Institute on Aging and the Alzheimer’s Association proposed the new criteria. If an individual can still do everyday activities, independently function, but has mild activity problems, they would have MCI. Currently, more than five million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer’s or related dementias. By 2050, these numbers are expected to double. But if the classification changes, millions of Americans could lose out on critical care in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Earlier this week, the Obama Administration announced plans to spend $50 million on Alzheimer’s research and develop a National Alzheimer’s Plan under the direction of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The funds will promote more Alzheimer’s research, treatment, and caregiver support. Alzheimer’s disease costs $180 billion annually for medical and nursing home care.

Opponents of the proposed diagnosis say that more than 90 percent of people would have their diagnosis downgraded. Some medical experts say that more effort should be done to help patients who have MCI to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. They hope that the proposed criteria will be modified and discussed more to help the aging population.

Checklist to ensure you are proactive as you receive a diagnosis of cognitive impairment:

  • See a doctor early on to get answers and treatment options
  • Meet with an elder law attorney to review what health services and government benefits you are eligible for
  • Create documents for advance health care directives, power of attorney, and living will
  • Work with an elder law attorney to create an asset protection plan, estate plan, and appropriate trusts
  • Stay aware of changes that could occur due to the National Alzheimer’s Plan
  • Stay updated with Alzheimer’s Association proposal for condition re-categorization

An appropriate diagnosis can help an aging individual and their loved ones plan for the future. Being proactive in the early stages can allow a person a chance to make long-term decisions about their care, living arrangements, finances, and legal concerns. This allows a person more opportunity to benefit from advanced medical care and support services so that the aging process and effects of the disease are managed better. To learn more about New York elder law or New York estate planning, visit

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