Alzheimer’s disease affects women more as patients and caregivers

March 20, 2014

New startling figures surrounding Alzheimer’s find that older women have more chance of developing the disease than breast cancer.

New startling figures surrounding Alzheimer’s disease show that older women have a greater chance of developing the disease than breast cancer. According to a recent report from the Alzheimer’s Association, the disease marked by dementia and memory loss disproportionately affects women. Not only are more women living with the disease, but more than 60% of their caregivers are women.

By the age of 60, 1 in 6 women are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, compared with 1 in 11 women who are at risk of developing breast cancer. Two-thirds of the 5.2 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s are women.

“The observation that more women than men have Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias is primarily explained by the fact that women live longer, on average, than men, and older age is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s,” say the study’s authors.

The study also explores the financial, emotional, and physical toll that Alzheimer’s has on those taking care of loved ones with the disease. Caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s often have their own additional healthcare costs-up to $9.3 billion last year due to the stress of caring for someone with the disease. In 2013, 15.5 million caregivers classified as friends and family, spent 17.7 billion hours giving unpaid care to loved ones with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. If paid, that would amount to $220 billion, according to the study.

“Because many people do not report the care of an ailing spouse as caregiving, and because it is more common for a wife to be caring for an ailing husband than the converse, women may account for even more informal caregiving than these studies suggest,” the study’s authors say.

The sixth most common cause of death in the U.S., Alzheimer’s disease is also the most expensive health condition, costing $214 billion this year with more than half of those costs coming from Medicare and Medicaid. The study estimates Alzheimer’s spending could be as high as $1.2 trillion by 2050. 

“The number of Americans surviving into their 80s, 90s and beyond is expected to grow dramatically due to advances in medicine and medical technology, as well as social and environmental conditions,” say the study’s authors. “As the number of older Americans grows rapidly, so too will the numbers of new and existing cases of Alzheimer’s disease."

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