Women are at the epicenter of the Alzheimer’s crisis. Almost two-thirds of American seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease are women. Not only are women more likely to have Alzheimer’s, they are also more likely to be caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s – sixty-three percent of unpaid caregivers are women.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association 2014 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report, 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. As real a concern as breast cancer is to women’s health, 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.
Adding to women’s Alzheimer’s burden, there are 2.5 times as many women than men providing intensive “on-duty” care 24 hours for someone living with Alzheimer’s disease. Among caregivers who feel isolated, women are much more likely than men to link isolation with feeling depressed (17% of women vs. 2% of men).
The strain of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is also felt in the workplace. Among caregivers who have been employed while they were also caregiving: 20% of women vs. 3% of men went from working full-time to working part-time while acting as a caregiver; 18% of women vs. 11% of men took a leave of absence; 11% of women vs. 5% of men gave up work entirely; 10% of women vs. 5% of men lost job benefits.
Women may be the epicenter of the disease, but Alzheimer’s impacts men as well as every race, ethnicity, and economic status. One in nine individuals over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s and one in three over the age of 85. Alzheimer’s also affects those under 65. Ten million baby boomers will develop Alzheimer’s.
In Virginia, more than 130,000 individuals have Alzheimer’s, including an estimated 26,000 individuals in the Alzheimer’s Association Greater
Richmond Chapter’s 24 county and 5 city service footprint, and the Chapter provides care and support to these individuals and their caregivers while striving to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health and early detection.
“As individuals age, some changes are expected, but serious memory problems are not a normal part of aging and knowing the difference between what is normal and what is not can be vitally important,” said Sherry Peterson, CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Richmond Chapter.
Although there is no cure for the disease and no test to definitively diagnose the disease, it is critical that an individual have an early and careful evaluation if they begin to exhibit signs of the disease.”
These signs include: memory changes that disrupt daily life; challenges in planning or solving problems; difficulty completing familiar asks; confusion with time or place; trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships; new problems with words in speaking and writing; misplacing things and losing the ability to retract steps; decreased or poor judgment; withdrawal from work or social activities; and changes in mood and personality.
Individuals may experience one or more of the signs to varying degrees, but if you notice any of the signs, please see a doctor. Early diagnosis is important for the individual with the disease and his or her family.
The Alzheimer’s Association Greater Richmond Chapter also provides round-the-clock information and assistance through our Helpline (800- 272-3900); training for family members and care providers; support groups, facilitated by trained volunteers, which meet monthly throughout the region; one-on-one consultation for individuals with Alzheimer’s and their families; nationally recognized programs that aid in the safe and timely return of patients who wander and become lost.
“We cannot change your loved one’s diagnosis, but we can provide the support needed to make it easier to manage the disease and plan for he future,” added Peterson. The chapter serves persons with any dementia disease, such as vascular dementia, Lewy body disease, frontotemporal dementia, and others, not just individuals with Alzheimer’s. 90% of chapter services are offered free of charge.
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