Alzheimer’s Disease: The Impact on Women

Alzheimer's

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, women are significantly impacted by Alzheimer’s, both caregivers and patients. In particular, women over the age of 60 have a 1 in 6 chance of being diagnosed with the disease, as well as being twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s than breast cancer. The findings were published in the Association’s Facts and Figures report on March 19th.

In comparison, the impact of Alzheimer’s on males has less of an impact with 1 in 11 men likely to get the disease. Angela Geiger, the Association’s chief strategy officer, called women “the epicenter of Alzheimer’s,” as they represent a majority of caregivers on top of those diagnosed with the disease. She notes how there have been “well-deserved investments” in heart disease, HIV/AIDS, stroke, and breast cancer, which has led to a significant decline in the mortality rate. However, Geiger also encourages more investments in preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease, which is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.

This research was spurred on by the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2010 Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Takes on Alzheimer’s, conducted in partnership with Maria Shriver. The report, which included poll numbers along with personal reflections and essays, rose awareness of just how much the impact Alzheimer’s had on women, encouraging the Association to dig deeper into the subject matter.

One of the main topics the recent report explores is the emotional impact that Alzheimer’s disease has on women in a care giving role. It found that they have a 17 percent chance of feeling depressed through isolation compared to 2 percent for men. The study also found that 20 percent of women in the workforce compared to 3 percent of men went from full-time to part-time in their jobs so as to be a caregiver. The percentages of women compared to men in terms of taking a leave of abscence or leaving work entirely was found to also be significantly higher.

In addition, the number of women is 2.5 times larger than the number of men providing “on-duty,” intensive care over a 24 hour period for an Alzheimer’s patient. That care includes such tasks as clothing, diapering and feeding, and can last four to seven years, and in some cases up to 20 years. Overall, the report estimates that there are 15.5 million caregivers and 17.7 billion hours of care that is unpaid in the U.S. For this year alone, the cost of care for the 5 million Americans who have Alzheimer’s disease is estimated to be $214 billion.

Overall, the Association predicts that if the current trend continues there could be 16 million Americans with Alzheimer’s by 2050, with a cost of $1.2 trillion in providing care across the U.S. The report points out the country’s National Plan and the goal of treating Alzheimer’s effectively by 2025. The plan also is proposing funding $100 million in awareness, education, and out-reach programs throughout 2014.

Risk factors for the disease include aging and genetics, which are basically out of an individuals control. The Alzheimer’s Association website said a person can do all the right things and yet not be able to prevent Alzheimer’s. The best one can do is stay mentally healthy in life and keep a low cholesterol and fat diet that is healthy to the brain.

Seeing just how much the impact Alzheimer’s has on women, the Alzheimer’s Association will be launching a national initiative this spring. On their website they ask for women to share their story on what their brains means to them. In essence, the movement will highlight “the power of women” in their battle against Alzheimer’s disease.

By Kollin Lore

CNN
Alzheimer’s Association
CBC

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