Alzheimer disease (AD) takes a heavy economic, social, physical, and psychological toll on patients, families, and society. Because of the increasing life expectancy in the United States, AD is expected to afflict approximately 14 million people within the next few decades. There is currently no cure, only interventions that can temporarily ameliorate the profound cognitive losses and behavioral manifestations of the disorder. Community services are fragmented and underutilized. Physicians, in their traditional role as gatekeepers, can encourage more families to use supportive services. This article reviews the guidelines on the diagnosis and treatment of AD of the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, the American Academy of Neurology, the Veterans Health Administration, and the American Psychiatric Association. Although these guidelines contain valuable information, they do not adequately address the role of the family physician and the need for continuity of care. Recommendations regarding AD from the Council on Scientific Affairs, which were adopted as American Medical Association policy in December 1997, are included in this article.
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