For reasons that elude the medical and scientific community, women are significantly more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than men.
Of the 5.8 million Americans living today with Alzheimer’s, nearly two-thirds are women, with women in their 60s more than twice as likely to develop the disease than they are to develop breast cancer.
Not only are women more likely to have Alzheimer’s, they are also more likely to shoulder the responsibilities of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 60 percent of the 16 million unpaid Alzheimer’s caregivers in America today are women, requiring that they juggle the responsibilities of caregiving with those of raising a family and/or building a career.
This balancing act is understandably impossible for many, which is why more women are quitting their jobs rather than risk neglecting their loved ones. But while lack of a job may mean more time for their loved ones, it also means less money, at a time when these women need it most. Per person, the lifetime cost of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is, on average, $321,780.
So significant is the Alzheimer’s cost burden that 30 percent of women serving as unpaid Alzheimer’s caregivers report eating less because they can’t afford to replenish their own pantries while, at the same time, footing the bill for the medical supplies and services their loved one needs.
Not only is Alzheimer’s responsible for the deaths of an increasing number of women, it is also causing more women across the U.S. to experience a decline in their physical, mental and financial health.
While we don’t yet understand how or why Alzheimer’s disproportionately impacts women, significant research is being done to uncover the answer.
In the meantime, state governments have the immediate capacity to significantly reduce women’s Alzheimer’s burden by implementing effective policy solutions, including updating State Alzheimer’s Plans. Updating these plans and supporting other policies will reduce the long-term impact of the disease on state budgets, and improve the lives of individuals living with dementia and their family caregivers.
The focus of effective state policy solutions should:
- Increase public awareness about Alzheimer’s disease
- Encourage early detection and diagnosis
- Build a dementia-capable workforce
- Increase access to home and community-based services
- Enhance the quality of care in residential settings
Until more effective policies are passed at the state level, women will remain on the frontlines of the nation’s fight against Alzheimer’s. Starting right now, during Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month, we strongly encourage elected officials in every state to join our wives, sisters, daughters, mothers and grandmothers in the fight. Learn more at alzimpact.org/state.