The number of older adults with Alzheimers disease and related disorders is expected to triple over the next 50 years. While we may be on the cusp of important therapeutic advances, such advances will not alter the disease course for millions of persons already affected. Hoping for technology to spare the health care system from the need to care for older adults with dementia is no longer tenable. Most older adults with dementia will receive their medical care in the primary care setting and this setting is not prepared to provide for the complex care needs of these vulnerable elders. With an increasing emphasis on earlier diagnosis of dementia, primary care in particular will come under increasing strain from this new care responsibility. While primary care may remain the hub of care for older adults, it cannot and should not be the whole of care. We need to design and test new models of care that integrate the larger health care system including medical care as well as community and family resources. The purpose of this paper to describe the current health care infrastructure with an emphasis on the role of primary care in providing care for older adults with dementia. We summarize recent innovative models of care seeking to provide an integrated and coordinated system of care for older adults with dementia. We present the case for a more aggressive agenda to improving our system of care for older adults with dementia through greater training, integration, and collaboration of care providers. This requires investments in the design and testing of an improved infrastructure for care that matches our national investment in the search for cure.
Indiana University Center for Aging Research, HITS Building Suite 2000, 410 West 10th Street, Indianapolis,IN 46202-3012, USA.