Women’s Latest Battle: Alzheimer’s Disease

By on May 10, 2011

By:  Sherri Snelling –

When it comes to Alzheimer’s disease, women are being impacted at a disproportionate level according to The Shriver Report:  A Woman’s Nation Takes on Alzheimer’s, conducted in collaboration with the Alzheimer’s Association.  The report shows that 10 million American women are touched by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.  Of the more than 5 million Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, two-thirds are women.  In addition, 6.7 million women represent 60 percent of the family caregivers of those living with the disease.  Since women also make up half of all U.S. employees, the impact of Alzheimer’s disease on our workplace, our health care system and our family lives is significant and growing.

The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that every 70 seconds someone is diagnosed with this disease.  What is perhaps a larger concern is that studies also show that 50 percent of those living with Alzheimer’s are undiagnosed.

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Impact to Work, Family and Self

The toll this disease takes on women cannot go unnoticed.  One-third of these female caregivers are caring for an Alzheimer’s loved one 24/7 and almost half provide more than 40 hours of care a week.  That means women who are working caregivers, in addition to bringing home the bacon, now come home to another full-time job:  caregiver.

When it comes to work/life balance, these women caregivers are walking a precarious tightrope.  Studies show that seven out of 10 working caregivers have had to make adjustments at work – coming in late, leaving early, and taking time off – all to care for their loved one with Alzheimer’s.  And, 46 percent of The Shriver Report’s female respondents asked for time off from work but could not get it.

So while women are facing burn-out and bosses who may not be supportive, they are also in jeopardy of possible future bankruptcy.  The Shriver Report estimates that the annual per patient costs for Alzheimer’s is $56,800 – and 65 percent of those costs are borne by families.

Now if you are reading this and still don’t believe that Alzheimer’s may touch your life or family, consider this:

  • Almost 30 percent of Americans have a family member with Alzheimer’s disease and half of all Americans know someone with the disease.
  • Some research has linked diabetes and cardiovascular disease with a risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
  • By 2050, with the aging Baby Boomer population, there will be 16 million people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s – half of which will be women 65 years or older.
  • Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth ranking “killer” – behind heart disease and cancer — but quickly gaining ground as our 78 million Baby Boomers enter their 60s and beyond.

 

Sunny Solutions for Gloomy News

1)      Know the Signs – the Alzheimer’s Association has developed a list of the 10 Early Warning Signs of the disease.  While today there is no cure for the disease, it does help families to plan for the future care of their loved one while their loved one can still participate in that discussion if an early diagnosis is made.

2)      Manage Your Stress – on the Alzheimer’s Association Web site there is a Caregiver Stress Test.  It will help you, as a caregiver, to understand how much stress you may be feeling.  This information is valuable to share with your own physician.  As we know, stress can lead to health risks such as higher blood pressure, hypertension, heart disease and possible links to other chronic illnesses.

3)      Get Support – There are also links on the Alzheimer’s site for support groups and other important services and information.  In addition, caregiving sites such as Caring.com also have helpful information.  In fact, Caring.com just launched its “Steps and Stages” customizable resource tool and other valuable information to guide you on the caregiving journey of Alzheimer’s disease stages known as the “long good-bye.”

You can also view the Caregiving Club’s weekly video tip on Women and Alzheimer’s disease and get more information by visiting:  caregivingclub.com.

It is wise for all of us to put a caregiving plan together.  Whether it’s Alzheimer’s disease or some other chronic illness or the simple fact of an aging American population, being prepared and knowing that caregiving will inevitably touch your life is something you can count on.  But, being prepared will make all the difference in shifting caregiving from overwhelming to rewarding.

©2011 Sherri Snelling

About Sherri Snelling

Sherri Snelling, CEO and founder of the Caregiving Club, is a nationally recognized expert on America’s 65 million family caregivers with special emphasis on how to help caregivers balance “self care” while caring for a loved one.  She is a consultant, media contributor, and frequent guest speaker on the nation’s Baby Boomers and their caregiving role as the “The Sandwich Generation” and has been featured on CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, ABC World Evening News, MSNBC, Fox Business Network, CNN and in the New York Times, USA Today, PARADE, Prevention, Family Circle and WebMD.  Sherri was Chairman of the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and former senior director for Caregiver Programs and Services at UnitedHealthcare.

About Sherri Snelling

Sherri Snelling, CEO and founder of the Caregiving Club, is a nationally recognized expert on America’s 65 million family caregivers with special emphasis on how to help caregivers balance “self care” while caring for a loved one. She is executive producer and host of a new caregiving TV series, Handle with Care on RLTV and co-producer of the Silvers Summit at the annual Consumer Electronics Show. Sherri is a consultant, media contributor, and frequent guest speaker on the nation’s Baby Boomers and their caregiving role as the “The Sandwich Generation.” Website: www.caregivingclub.com

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Women’s Latest Battle: Alzheimer’s Disease