Patient and caregiver – when it comes to Alzheimer’s disease, women represent the majority of people in both of these categories. That’s according to the latest Alzheimer’s Association 2014 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report.
There are more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease, including 3.2 million women. The likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s at age 65 is 1 in 6 for women, compared with nearly 1 in 11 for men.
“A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is a life-changing event for the entire family,” says Tara O’Rourke, LNHA, MA, CTRS, CDP, CADDCT (Trainer), CDCM, administrator of ProMedica Goerlich Center for Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care. “Over time, families have to make difficult decisions as they seek to care for their loved ones as they progress through the various stages of the disease.”
The Alzheimer’s Association estimates the cost of caring for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias will reach $214 billion this year. That number does not include the cost of 17.5 billion hours of unpaid caregiving provided by family and friends. Caregiving includes assisting with everyday activities such as bathing and meals, making sure medications are taken correctly, managing finances and coordinating doctor’s appointments.
There are 2.5 times as many women than men providing intensive round-the-clock care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease. The role of caregiver causes emotional, professional and financial strain. Women often transition to part-time work or stop working at all. They may feel isolated, which can contribute to depression.
“We realize caregivers need support, too,” says O’Rourke. “Support groups, information and programs are available for family members to help them understand Alzheimer’s disease and dementia and to let them know they are not alone.”
Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. The Alzheimer’s Association predicts the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias will increase rapidly in coming years as the baby boom generation ages. But evidence suggests there are steps people can take to maintain brain health:
- Physical activity: Exercises like walking; bike riding and gardening help maintain good blood flow to the brain.
- Diet: Eat foods low in cholesterol and fat as well as dark vegetables and fruits with antioxidants.
- Social interaction: Work, volunteering, social clubs and travel are some of the activities that stimulate the mind.
- Mental activity: Crossword puzzles, games and lifelong learning at community centers and local colleges can help keep the brain active.
Read the full text: Alzheimer’s Association 2014 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures Report
If you are seeking information or support, ProMedica Goerlich Center offers a weekly phone-in support group. The group meets Thursdays from noon – 12:30 p.m. To join, call 1-877-820-7831 and enter the passcode: 981654.