WASHINGTON – Alzheimer’s disease affects twice as many women as it does men,according to a new report by the Alzheimer’s Association.
Created in conjunction with California’s first lady Maria Shriver,“ The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Takes on Alzheimer’s,” released Friday,shows that two-thirds of the people living with Alzheimer’s today are women,and 60 percent of Alzheimer’s caregivers are women.
“Women are essentially under siege by this disease,” said Olivia Morgan,managing editor of the Shriver Report,at a panel discussion Monday at the Center for American Progress.
Because of these new figures,Morgan said Alzheimer’s has begun to be recognized as an issue of primary concern to women.
Shriver became involved in the issue when her father,Sargent Shriver,94,was diagnosed with the disease in 2003. Shriver was the founding director of the Peace Corps and sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1976.
The report revealed that primary caregivers to Alzheimer’s patients are six times more likely to develop the disease,or other forms of dementia, themselves. This is due in part to the emotional stress and physical demands of providing care to relatives and loved ones.
“We know that Alzheimer’s is an absolute epidemic,” said Angela Geiger,chief strategy officer of the Alzheimer's Association.
Beyond the health effects,Alzheimer’s also affects the U.S. economy. The estimated societal impact of the disease on government and businesses is $300 billion per year,according to the report,and primary caregivers provide more than 12 billion unpaid hours of care. The societal costs associated with Alzheimer’s are anticipated to exceed $20 trillion from now until the year 2050.
The association conducted a telephone survey of more than 3,100 adults,including about 500 caregivers,from Aug. 25 to Sept. 3. The margin of error is plus or minus two percentage points.
The report sheds light on a growing issue of workplace flexibility for caretakers of Alzheimer’s patients. Two-thirds of all working caregivers responding to the survey said they regularly had to arrive at work late,leave work early or take time off to care for their loved ones.
Speakers at CAP covered issues from the need for support programs to possible legislation. About 100 people,mostly women,attended. Experts and activists called for more research and investment in the battle against Alzheimer’s.
“The government’s response has been woefully inadequate,” said Linda Tarplin,co-founder of Tarplin,Downs & Young,LLC,a health care policy development firm. “Women matter,and we are in greater numbers.”