Gender Matters

Story provided by Alzheimer’s Association, Oklahoma Chapter

Today, more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia; 67,000 of those live in Oklahoma.  While age is the greatest risk factor in developing Alzheimer’s disease, gender plays a role as well.  Women are more likely to develop dementia.  In fact, Alzheimer’s disease was first discovered in a German woman by Dr. Alois Alzheimer in the early 1900s.  

Alzheimer’s disease is not a part of normal aging, but rather a devastating disease.  Today, almost two-thirds of the 3.6 million American seniors (65 and older) who are living with Alzheimer’s disease are women. At age 65, women have more than a 1 in 5 chance of developing Alzheimer’s during the remainder of their lives, compared with a 1 in 9 chance for men.

Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias affect whole families, emotionally, physically, and financially.  The most expensive disease in the country, the direct costs of caring for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias will total an estimated $305 billion in 2020.  Sadly, women with the disease have higher costs than men. 

  • Over the course of a lifetime, a woman with Alzheimer’s will cost Medicare, on average, $15,531 more than a woman without Alzheimer’s. This is 16% higher than the “incremental cost” for men with the disease.
  • Under Medicaid, a woman with Alzheimer’s will have $16,919 more in costs than a woman without — more than 70% higher than the incremental costs for male Alzheimer’s patients.
  • Women are more likely to be placed in long-term care facilities than men.  According to the National Institute of Health, two-thirds of nursing home residents have dementia or other cognitive impairment.

Not only are women more likely to have the disease, they are more likely to be caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. Studies have consistently shown that women make up 60% to 70%, an estimated 11 million, of all unpaid Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers. The care they provide is also more intensive and for longer periods of time.

  • There are 2.5 times more women than men who provide on-duty care 24-hours a day for someone with Alzheimer’s.
  • Similarly, there are 1.7 times more women than men who have been providing care to someone with Alzheimer’s for more than five years.
  • Studies show female caregivers take on more caregiving tasks than their male counterparts — and care for people with more cognitive, functional, and/or behavioral problems. 

Caregiving often impacts the caregiver’s own health and wellbeing.  Almost half of all female dementia caregivers say caregiving is physically stressful, nearly twice the rate as male caregivers. While about one-third of both men and women Alzheimer’s caregivers feel isolated as a result of their caregiving duties, for women, this feeling is much more commonly linked to depression. Nearly three-quarters of women caregivers express concern about the ability to maintain their own health since becoming a caregiver. 

Because of these caregiving duties, women are likely to experience adverse consequences in the workplace. Nearly 19% of women Alzheimer’s caregivers had to quit work either to become a caregiver in the first place or because their caregiving duties became too burdensome. Among working women caregivers, 20% have gone from working full time to part-time, compared with only 3% of working male caregivers. 

Other employment effects on working women caregivers include:

  • 18% have taken a leave of absence from work
  • 10% have lost job benefits
  • 17% felt they had been penalized at work because of their caregiving duties. 

If you or someone you know is a caregiver or living with Alzheimer’s or dementia, reach out to the Alzheimer’s Association Oklahoma today through the 24/7 Help Line (1.800.272.3900). Trained care consultants will be able to help, answering questions, directing to other services, or simply listening.  If you’d like to access our resource library or other educational programs, see www.alz.org/oklahoma.  

Ready to get involved and join the fight? It’s not too late to participate in this year’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s!

Held annually in more than 600 communities nationwide, the Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support, and research. 

When you participate in Walk, your fundraising dollars fuel our mission, and your participation in the event helps to raise the level of Alzheimer’s awareness in your community. 

Visit www.StillwaterWalk.org to make a donation today – you can make a difference to a family in Oklahoma! See more at stillwaterwalk.org.

About Aging Advocates

Aging Advocates, a group of area businesses and agencies in the Payne County area meet monthly to advocate for older adults. From their experiences, they innovate ideas and raise awareness of older adult issues. It is important to look at the developing needs of the aging population and support, educate, and identify services valuable to a life fully lived.

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