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November is observed as “National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month” in the United States. The campaign shines a spotlight on Alzheimer’s disease (AD) – the most common form of dementia and the sixth leading causing of death in the United States. Sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association, the 2020 observance aims to make the general public more aware about the scale of the disease among the US population and to bring to light the potential care options for affected people. It aims to honor the lives of millions of Americans living with Alzheimer’s, through advocacy for a cure, awareness and education. AD is a type of dementia that primarily affects memory, thinking, behavior and social skills and disrupts a person’s ability to function independently. This type of dementia causes the brain cells to waste away (degenerate) and die. Forgetting recent events or conversations are the early signs of the disease. However, as the condition progresses, a person with AD will develop severe memory impairment and lose the ability to perform day-to-day activities. There is no specific treatment that completely cures AD or alter the disease process in the brain. However, as the disease reaches an advanced stage, severe complications like loss of brain function (such as dehydration, malnutrition or infection) may occur. Medications may help to temporarily control the progress and severity of symptoms. Neurologists and other specialists treating Alzheimer’s patients must use the correct diagnosis and procedural codes on the medical claims. For correct clinical documentation of this brain disorder, physicians can consider the services of reliable medical billing and coding companies.

As part of the 2020 campaign, the entire nation comes together and pledges heartfelt support to honor those Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. Throughout this month of November, the campaign solemnly remembers the precious lives lost to AD. The observance serves as a platform to express gratitude to caregivers devoting themselves to both those coping with a diagnosis and their families adjusting to the difficult realities of this condition.

The exact causes of Alzheimer’s Disease are not known. The condition may be caused by a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors that affect the brain over time. Problems with brain proteins (that fail to function normally) disrupt the work of brain cells (neurons). In most cases, the damage starts in the region of the brain that controls memory, but the process begins years before the first symptoms. Memory loss (usually involving difficulty remembering recent events or conversations) is one of the key symptoms associated with AD. However, as the disease progresses, memory impairments worsen and other symptoms like – trouble making plans and solving problems, confusion over times or places, and misplacing objects also develop. In addition, AD patients experience mood and personality changes that can later develop in to suspicion, confusion or even depression. In most cases, early-onset Alzheimer’s targets those people under the age of 65.

There is no single test that completely confirms the presence of this brain disorder. One of the key components of diagnostic assessment involves self-reporting of symptoms and information that a close family member or friend can provide about symptoms. In addition, physicians may perform a combination of cognitive, physical and neurologic tests/examinations to establish the presence of this condition. Neurologists may perform brain imaging tests like – Electroencephalogram (EEG), Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Computerized tomography (CT), and Positron emission tomography (PET) to confirm whether the patient suffers from the brain condition. Treatment for this condition involves medications like – Cholinesterase inhibitors, Memantine and Antidepressants that help control the behavioral symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Medicare (Parts A and B) does not address Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias as a singular diagnosis with universal coverage, but it does cover inpatient hospital care and some related expenses. Medicare (Parts A and B) covers a variety of medical services Alzheimer’s patients often need beyond regular doctor visits. These include – annual wellness visit/health risk assessment, hospice care, diagnostic testing, prescription drugs, mental health services, rehabilitative care and several other tests. The correct diagnosis and procedural codes must be reported on the medical claims submitted to insurers. Medical billing and coding services provided by reputable providers ensure that the right ICD-10 codes are used for medical billing. ICD-10 diagnosis codes for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) include –

  • G30 Alzheimer’s disease
  • G30.0 Alzheimer’s disease with early onset
  • G30.1 Alzheimer’s disease with late onset
  • G30.8 Other Alzheimer’s disease
  • G30.9 Alzheimer’s disease, unspecified

Under category G30, coders must assign the following additional codes to signify –

  • F05 – Delirium, if applicable
  • F02.81 – Dementia with behavioral disturbance
  • F02.80 – Dementia without behavioral disturbance

November was first designated as “National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month” on September 30, 1983 by the then US President Ronald Reagan. The observance was initially planned to help generate awareness about the disease. However, over these years, the scope of campaign widened and was considered a call to action to support and educate caregivers and to provide high-quality engagement opportunities for people with the disease.

As part of the 2020 campaign, healthcare organizations across the US will be hosting a wide range of events to spread awareness about the screening and treatment for AD. Purple is the official color of the Alzheimer’s movement. People working in healthcare organizations around the country can wear purple to express their support and awareness. People supporting the event may share or post the hashtag #AlzheimersDiseaseMonth via several social media platforms.

Join AD Awareness Month Celebration This November! Spread awareness and show your support for those affected by Alzheimer’s disease.