Women Bear Greatest Burden of Alzheimer's

Survey finds they're more likely than men to have Alzheimer's or take care of someone with the disease

MONDAY, July 18 (HealthDay News) -- Women fear Alzheimer's disease more than any other illness except cancer, and they are more often on the front lines of providing care for loved ones battling the disease, new research shows.

"With statistics consistently pointing to the fact that more women are living with Alzheimer's and caring for people with Alzheimer's, it is clear women are disproportionately affected by this disease," said Angela Geiger, chief strategy officer of the Alzheimer's Association.

A survey of women in France, Germany, Spain, Poland and the United States revealed that women are at the center of the global Alzheimer's epidemic. The multinational research team found women in all five countries were more concerned than men about a loved one developing the disease.

Women in all countries, the survey also found, were more likely than men to be involved in the daily care of someone with the disease. In fact, women in France and Poland were significantly more involved in the decision-making and financial support of an Alzheimer's patient.

If roles were reversed and those polled were to develop the disease, most identified their spouse as the person who would be responsible for their primary care. Men, however, identified their wives 6 percent to 18 percent more often than wives identified their husbands. In contrast, women were more likely to say they would rely on their children or paid caregivers outside the family to care for them.

Despite their fear of the disease, which currently affects 36.5 million people worldwide, and their greater burden as caregivers, 71 percent of women in France and 76 percent of women in the United States seem to be more optimistic that a treatment for Alzheimer's will be developed within five years. That may be one reason why the survey also showed that women believe government spending on Alzheimer's research should be increased.

"These insights reinforce the conclusions published in The Shriver Report: A Women's Nation Takes on Alzheimer's, which found the impact of Alzheimer's on women is significant. The perspectives we see in this survey must prompt thoughtful conversations about Alzheimer's with our friends, family members and government officials to change the trajectory of Alzheimer's disease," concluded Geiger.

The research was slated for presentation Monday at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Paris. Research presented at medical meetings should be viewed a preliminary until it is published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more facts and statistics on Alzheimer's disease.

Mary Elizabeth Dallas SOURCE: Alzheimer's Association International Conference, news release, July 18, 2011

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