Alzheimer's Disease: A Double Whammy for Women

Alzheimer's stamp

If you are a woman, a new report from the Alzheimer's Association might just jolt you upright. Consider:

  • Women in their 60s are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's disease sometime in their lives as they are to develop breast cancer. 
  • They have a 1 in 6 chance of developing the disease. A man's chances are 1 in 11. 
  • Three out of 5 people with Alzheimer's are women
  • Women are 2.5 times more likely than men to provide the 24-hour, hands-on care at the end stage of the disease that a loved one might need.


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These are just some of the statistics to come out of this week's 2014 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures report, which includes a special report on women and the disease.

"Our report shines a light on the disproportionate burden on women, who are at the epicenter of Alzheimer's disease," says Angela Geiger, chief strategy officer for the Alzheimer's Association. "We're hoping the report serves as a catalyst for increased federal funding." Currently, the government spends $500 million annually on Alzheimer's research, as compared with $6 billion for cancer and $5 billion for heart disease.

"With that investment have come great advances with those other diseases," says Geiger. "If we're willing to make that same kind of investment, we'll have the same success in preventing and treating Alzheimer's. It's the only one out of the top 10 causes of death that can't be cured, prevented or even slowed."

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Other figures that popped out at me:

  • Approximately 5 million Americans who are 65 or older have Alzheimer's, while 200,000 or so who are under 65 have early-onset Alzheimer's; by 2025, look for a 40 percent increase, or a total of 7.1 million who are 65 or older; by 2050, the numbers are expected to reach 13.8 million, or almost three times what they are today. 
  • Eighty-two percent of those with the disease are age 75-plus, 32 percent are 85-plus, and 11 percent are 65-plus. 
  • Last year, family, friends and others devoted 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care for people with Alzheimer's and other dementias.  
  • The Alzheimer's Association puts the national cost of caring for people with Alzheimer's and other dementias at around $214 billion this year. Medicaid and Medicare account for 70 percent of those costs ($150 billion). 
  • Thirty-nine percent of those who cared for someone with dementia said they were depressed, while this figure was 17 percent for non-caregivers. Women also received less outside help. Not surprisingly, caregiving responsibilities often impacted the informal caregiver's health. 
  • Almost seven times as many female Alzheimer's caregivers as male caregivers cut back from full-time to part-time work, with twice as many women as men saying they had to stop working or had lost their job benefits. 


Photo: Google images/Getty

Sally Abrahms writes about adult boomer children and their aging parents. Follow her on Twitter.


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