Women and The Burden of Alzheimer's

Dr. Cindy Haines Health Guide
  • Alzheimer's disease carries a heavy burden - and not just for the individual whose brain is afflicted by the disease pathology, but for his/her caregivers as well. Caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease can take an enormous physical, emotional, and financial toll. The daily demands of providing care, family roles in flux, and dealing with the difficult decisions about the "if's and when's" of placement in a care facility can be taxing to say the least.

     

    A new survey reveals that women may carry a heavier burden of Alzheimer's disease than men. The research shows that, for women, Alzheimer's disease is more feared than any other illness, excluding cancer. And women are more often the caregivers for those in the grips of the disabling disease.

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    This research, set for presentation this year at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Paris, determined that women in France, Germany, Spain, Poland and the U.S. are more concerned than are men about someone close to them developing Alzheimer's.

     

    What's more, the men in these countries were much more likely to identify their wives as the ones who would be responsible for their care, while the women were more apt to choose their children or paid caregivers.

    Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia in the elderly, with symptoms typically appearing after the age of 60. It has been estimated that as many as 5.1 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease. This disabling and chronic condition hits at at time when we become more vulnerable in other areas as well - general health may be deteriorating, retirement may mean that finances are more of a concern, and emotional frailty may emerge if social networks are waning.

     

    One proactive strategy is to become better informed about the disease. Learn what can be done to help ward off the disease, or keep progression at bay. This may include medications, but evidence is growing that the lifestyle choices we make, day-in and day-out, also play a big role.

     

    Working on the development and maintenance of good coping skills and a healthy network of family and friends is also key. Caregivers can also benefit by participating in a variety of support groups. The Alzheimer's Association and other organizations provide resources on this and more. Help is available; you just need to reach out for it.


    For even more tips on how to get better health and need the health care system less, check out Dr. Cynthia Haines' book The New Prescription: How to Get the Best Health Care in a Broken System(HCI Books, Dr. Cynthia Haines and Eric Metcalf). This is a book about getting what you really want: better health on your own terms. More medical care doesn't mean better health. Dr. Cynthia Haines and Metcalf reveal some of the most egregious problems with a medical system gone awry, opening readers' eyes to how to better navigate the changes underway. Using solid research, insiders' insights, and patient anecdotes, they offer cost-effective and potentially life-saving ways to get more out of health care while using less of it.

Published On: September 28, 2011