Women and Alzheimer’s: A Gender Under Siege

Alzheimer’s, the disease that robs you of your memories, your personality, your ability to think, your ability to reason, your motor skills, and eventually your life.

This was the sobering reality for an estimated 5 million Americans aged 65 and older in 2013 – an estimate that is expected to nearly triple by 2050.

And while this epidemic does –and will continue to – have an enormous effect on everyone in our society, women are hit the hardest when it comes to Alzheimer’s disease.

Women and Alzheimer’s Disease

Since 1960 the number of women breadwinners has quadrupled. Today, 40 percent of mothers with children under 18 are either the sole or primary earner for her family.

Women also account for 62 percent of the caregivers providing for loved ones with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. On average, these women logged 47.2 hours of unpaid care a week.

“(This is) a burden that hits working women the hardest,” says Dr. Dona Wagner, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the College for Health and Social Services.

With each facet demanding attention, caregiving often forces its way to the top. Far too often, a woman’s job tends to take a back seat. This can have serious financial implications and possibly lead to caregiver burnout.

A study conducted by the Working Mother Research Institute found that nearly every working caregiver who could amend her work schedule did. And the majority of those who didn’t make adjustments said it was because it wasn’t feasible – not because they didn’t want to.

Even more worrisome, caregivers of spouses with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia are six-times more likely to develop the disease themselves according to The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Takes on Alzheimer’s. Maria Shriver, whose father suffers from the disease, is the award-winning producer for The Alzheimer’s Project.

Which makes sense, considering caregivers spend so much of their time and energy looking after someone else, they tend to ignore their own health concerns. The chronic stress lowers their immune system making them more susceptible to illness and injury.

Now add into that equation that two-thirds of sufferers of Alzheimer’s are women, and you have a nation of women trying to juggle raising America’s next generation, caring for America’s last generation, and maintaining their own career – all at the cost of their own health.

What you have, is a nation with a gender under siege.

How Can We Help Our Women Caregivers?

The Shriver Report provides a list of several things that families, employers and governmental programs can be doing that would have a huge impact in attacking this crisis head on.

Spread out caregiving responsibilities among other family members to minimize caregiver burnout – 39 percent of women feel they have no choice but to be the sole caregiver.

Flexibility in the workplace, the No. 1 benefit caregivers desire.

Providing elder care benefits in addition to the already offered child care benefits.

Offering paid sick time dedicated to caregiving demands.

Other low/no cost benefits such as informational tools, savings plans, and planning resources.

• Governmental incentivized flextime programs, so employers are more encouraged to offer flexible work hours to their caregiving employees.

Funding more elder daycare programs staffed with people accredited for Alzheimer’s care, which would allow working women the freedom to focus on their career.

Alzheimer’s is a dire problem that needs immediate attention from families, doctors, governmental leaders, businesses, health care institutions, volunteers, researchers– everybody.

We all have a responsibility to be on the front lines fighting together towards the goals of preventing, curing, and eradicating this deadly disease burdening millions of people – especially women.  Visit the Alzheimer’s Association for more information on how you can get involved.

Give us a call today at 229-292-8989 to find out how we can help you with our innovative approach to Elder law, Asset Protection, Estate, Medicaid and Life Care Planning. We have free information brochures, and offer free seminars on this subject. Lambert Elder Care Law office is located at 108 E. North Street, Valdosta, GA. Give us a call at 229-292-8989 or visit our website to www.legaladviceforseniors.com

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