Women avoid realities of Alzheimer’s

November 3, 2017

Magical thinking pervades the subject of Alzheimer’s—a progressive disease that destroys memory and other brain functions—according to results of a new survey.

Forty-four percent of all Americans, and 42% of women, believe that they don’t have to worry about getting Alzheimer’s if it doesn’t run in their families and if they are under the age of 65.

In fact, every 66 seconds a new brain develops Alzheimers—and two-thirds of the 5 million Americans who suffers from the disease are women. Many of those women will start to develop the symptoms of Alzheimer’s fully 20 years before the disorder is diagnosed.

These are the sobering findings from a poll released by Maria Shriver’s Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement and the Bipartisan Policy Center. Shriver previewed the results on November 1 in New York City at her first-ever summit on women’s brain health, co-sponsored by the Lifetime television network.

Among the findings:

  • Only 22% of all Americans (27% of women) know that Alzheimer’s disproportionately affects women.
  • Seventy-one percent of American women believe you don’t begin to develop any symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease until you are 60 or older.
  • Sixty-six percent of Americans (64% of women) want a family member to be their primary caregiver. Yet only one-quarter of seniors have had the conversation with their children, and only one-third of Millennials have talked with their parents about the issue.
  • Women make up two-thirds of the caregivers in America. Yet, 54% of American women report that they are ill-prepared to take care of their parents; and 50% of Millennial women report feeling that way.
  • Fifty-four percent of Americans (53% of women) say long-term care will cost $25,000 or less per year, even though it’s been shown to cost nearly double that amount. Nearly half of Millennials believe it will cost less than $18,000 per year. Many incorrectly believe that Medicare will help cover the costs, which can bankrupt families.

The realities are daunting: In 2014, the average annual cost to live in a nursing facility was $87,600; the cost for a home health aide was $45,800; and participation in a community-based adult day-care center was $16,900. By contrast, the average per-capita retirement savings among Americans age 62 and older was $20,000 in 2015.

“While many American women have heard the word ‘Alzheimer’s,’ only a small percentage of them truly realize that they are vulnerable,” said Shriver. “But there is a hunger for information and a willingness to change lifestyle behaviors. People just want to know what they have to do. There is a huge opening here to educate the American public, especially women. This is a major opportunity for doctors, corporations, nonprofits and the government to step forward and help. People have a desire to help wipe out this disease. They just have a lack of information about what they can do to affect their likelihood of getting it.”

“Most Americans are unaware of their risk of Alzheimer’s, unprepared to be a family caregiver, and uninformed about the cost of care,” said Katherine Hayes, director of Health Policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “Individuals and family caregivers in need of long-term services and supports, such as bathing, dressing and medication management, often face devastating out-of-pocket costs. These survey results should prompt every family to sit down together and make a plan for addressing their long-term health care needs.”

Conducted from October 18 through October 23, the poll by Hart Research Associates surveyed a nationally representative sample of 800 Americans online, with an additional 100 interviews among Millennial women and  men, respectively ,on Alzheimer’s disease, long-term care and their feelings on the state of their health today.

The health summit and the release of the poll coincide with the start of National Alzheimer’s Disease and Family Caregivers Month, which was designated by President Ronald Reagan in 1983. Fewer than 2 million Americans had Alzheimer’s at the time and President Reagan was one of them.

Research contact: http://thewomensalzheimersmovement.org/