Alzheimer's Hits Women the Hardest

As the numbers of Alzheimer’s patients grow across America, it looks like us ladies are the most affected group in not one, but two ways: we're more likely to be diagnosed and be the caregiver when others are diagnosed.

Women in their 60s are nearly twice as likely to develop the disease as they are to develop breast cancer, a new study from the Alzheimer’s Association shows. Three out of five people suffering from Alzheimer’s are women, reports NBC News, and it’s not just older women.

Remember Seth Rogen’s hilarious and heartwarming speech in front of a Senate committee last month? Well, he was talking about his mother-in-law who developed the disease early in her 50’s. What began as her not remembering keys devolved into her inability to remember who Seth and his wife were and later, how to speak and feed herself.

Alzheimer’s sucks, but even if we're individually able to sidestep it, it’s highly likely that if our parents or partners are diagnosed, we may find ourselves as caregivers.

One of them is Angie Carrillo of San Jose, Calif. Carrillo who was stunned when her then-61-year-old husband, John Wallace, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2008. Things went downhill quickly and Wallace, an accountant, lost his job….

“He had long-term disability, but in order to qualify for that, you had to be disabled for 90 days. So for 90 days, we didn't have his income, and not that we were living large, but we were spending our paycheck.”

Like Carillo, 20 percent of women moonlighting as caregivers at home reduce their working hours from full-time to part-time, unlike just three percent of men. Overall, 65 percent of caregivers are women and the alternatives are really expensive. Carillo’s husband’s dementia progressed until he needed to be in a medical facility; now Carillo is worried about paying the $5,000 monthly bill. Medicaid is available, but only after Carillo goes “broke.” That said, she won’t have long to wait, if the statistics are right.

“Given the high average costs of these services (adult day services, $72 per day; assisted living, $43,756 per year; and nursing home care, $83,230 to $92,977 per year), individuals often deplete their income and assets and eventually qualify for Medicaid,” the report reads. “Medicaid is the only public program that covers the long nursing home stays that most people with dementia require in the late stages of their illnesses.”

Ultimately, it costs America $214 billion each year to care for all of the Alzheimer's and dementia patients across the country. If you were to put a price on all the pro-bono care women provide to family and friends, it'd come out to an additional $220 billion. This is hardly small change; the spread of the disease has a huge impact.

It might seem helpless, but we can lobby for more government spending to be allocated for Alzheimer's research through groups like the Alzheimer's Association, US Against Alzheimer's or Rogen's Hilarity for Charity and more. If we know how to fight Alzheimer's, then we can change these sad and too-early-in-the-morning-for-all-this-bad-news statistics. Who's with me?

Image via Fotoluminate LLC/Shutterstock.