Latest numbers from Alzheimer’s Association and a question

by mymothersbrain

The latest statistics for Alzheimer’s in the U.S. were released earlier this month by the Alzheimer’s Association. I’ve posted a link in the blogroll section of this site, but here it is again:

In English: http://www.alz.org/documents_custom/report_alzfactsfigures2010.pdf

En español: http://www.alz.org/documents_custom/ALZ_FF2010_Spanish_03.09.10.pdf

It’s a long document — the folks at http://www.alz.org are thorough. There is some great information in here, and it’s best to read it all yourself, but here are some highlights:

  • African-Americans are about twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s than whites.
  • Hispanics are about 1.5 times as likely to have it than whites.
  • Additionally, in a comparison of men and women 71 and older, 11 percent of men had Alzheimer’s and other dementias while 16 percent of women had it — though analysis shows that this is because women live longer than men.
  • There are 10.9 million unpaid caregivers who provide 12.5 billion hours of care for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
  • About 60 percent of family and other unpaid caregivers for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias are women.
  • Nine percent of the 10.9 million unpaid caregivers live more than two hours away from the patient and 6 percent live one to two hours away.
  • One third of family caregivers of persons with Alzheimer’s and other dementias have symptoms of depression. (This job is incredibly stressful.)

While women are definitely bearing the bigger workload for actual hands-on caregiving, the disparity isn’t as large as I would have expected. In fact, among the people who have e-mailed me with reactions to this blog, many are men. And two who moved me deeply are doctors caring for their wives in their homes. One of them is here in the U.S. and the other is in Japan. So this isn’t a national issue, it’s a global issue. Both speak very tenderly about their wives. Additionally, my own husband was his mother’s primary caregiver for his mom until she had to go into residential care.

Back to women caregivers for a moment though, given the statistics about our longevity and the incidence of Alzheimer’s among us as we age, as well as the fact that up until now we’ve tended to do more of the caregiving. My mother-in-law Nina was POA for her mother who had Alzheimer’s and even before her mother died, Nina was exhibiting signs of the dementia herself. This was rather frightening as we weren’t sure how to negotiate caring for both of them should that time come. When I was speaking recently with the nurse at the day care my mother attends, she mentioned that there often comes a time when women who have been dropping off parents there for years begin exhibiting signs of the disease as well. Granted, these are anecdotes only, but they scare me.

I’m interested to know what caregivers for family members with dementia are doing to educate themselves about their own risks, as well as how they deal with the fear about it. Some of us truly have little time to even think about it; I know that when I’m with my mother any time to worry about myself disappears. Who has time to think about exercise or eat right when you are literally being someone else’s brain, right?

Still, I’m interested to know how others handle it. Do you read the studies out there, modify your life to minimize risks, or do you have little time to worry about that in your busy life?

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