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Published on: March 19, 2014
by Ky Forward:
A woman’s estimated lifetime risk of developing Alzheimer’s at age 65 is 1 in 6, compared with nearly 1 in 11 for a man.
A new Alzheimer’s Association report says the dementia risk is as real for women as is a concern about breast cancer. Women in their 60s are about twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s over the rest of their lives as they are to develop breast cancer, according to the 2014 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures.
“Women are at the epicenter of Alzheimer’s disease – they are nearly twice as likely as men to have the disease and two-and-a-half times more likely to be providing 24/7 care for someone with Alzheimer’s,” said Teri Shirk, executive director of the Kentucky and Southern Indiana Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. “And female caregivers are more likely than men to feel isolated and depressed, which puts tremendous strain on their own health.”
In addition, about half of those with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias have not been diagnosed, which means the 500,000 annual deaths the Association says are attributable to the disease are significantly underreported on death certificates. “If we could eliminate Alzheimer’s tomorrow, we could save half a million lives a year,” Shirk said.
Workplace costs of caregiving disproportionately borne by women
The costs of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s are also felt in the workplace. Among caregivers who have been employed while they were also providing care:
· 20 percent of women vs. 3 percent of men went from working full-time to working part-time while acting as a caregiver;
· 18 percent of women vs. 11 percent of men took a leave of absence;
· 11 percent of women vs. 5 percent of men gave up work entirely; and
· 10 percent of women vs. 5 percent of men lost job benefits.
Human and financial toll of Alzheimer’s
There are 5.2 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease, including 67,000 Kentuckians. The Kentucky number is projected to jump 28 percent, to 86,000, by 2025.
Alzheimer’s also has far reaching effects that can plague entire families. In 2013, 267,000 friends and family members provided 304 million hours of unpaid care valued at nearly $3.8 billion in the Commonwealth. And Kentucky caregivers’ own health care costs are $155 million higher due to the stress of caregiving.
Alzheimer’s continues to be the most expensive condition in the nation. The total national cost of caring for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias is projected to reach $214 billion this year (up from $203 billion in 2013), including $150 billion for Medicare and Medicaid, $36 billion in out of pocket costs, and $28 billion from insurance and other sources.
These numbers are set to soar as the baby boomers continue to enter the age of greatest risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Unless something is done to change the course of the disease, there could be as many as 16 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s in 2050, at a cost of $1.2 trillion (in current dollars) to the nation.
This dramatic rise includes a 500 percent increase in combined Medicare and Medicaid spending and a 400 percent increase in out-of-pocket spending. The country’s first-ever National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease has a goal of preventing and effectively treating Alzheimer’s disease by 2025.
Ensuring strong implementation of the National Alzheimer’s Plan, including adequately funding Alzheimer’s research, is the best way to avoid these staggering human and financial tolls, Shirk said.
Mistaken belief about the disease
Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States – the fifth leading cause for women – yet it is still widely misunderstood and underreported.
Nearly a quarter (24 percent) of both men and women agree with the mistaken belief that Alzheimer’s must run in their family for them to be at risk. When looking at certain ethnic groups, these numbers were even higher. A third of Latinos (33 percent) and almost half of Asians (45 percent) agreed with that incorrect statement.
“Everyone with a brain – male or female, family history of the disease or not – is at risk for Alzheimer’s disease,” Shirk said. “Moreover, African Americans are about two times more likely, and Hispanics one-and-a-half times more likely, than whites to have Alzheimer’s or another dementia.”
Realizing the impact Alzheimer’s has on women – and the impact women can have when they work together – the Alzheimer’s Association will launch a national initiative this spring highlighting the power of women in the fight against this disease.
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