Over 5.3 million Americans have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease; 3.3 million of them are women. Recent studies suggest that there may be an adverse interaction between the APOE-e4 genotype and the female hormone estrogen. It may also be simply that women live longer than men.
For every person with this disease, there are approximately 3 people providing between 20 and 60 hours of unpaid care to their loved ones and family members each week. That is over 16 million people and over 65% of these unpaid caregivers are women. They frequently have to take time off of work and/or give up their jobs and careers entirely. This costs them loss of pay, loss of insurance, loss of seniority, promotions and a significant reduction in retirement benefits including 401k contributions and social security benefits. Caregivers, men and women, are sacrificing not only their todays but are sacrificing their tomorrows as well.
Caregivers also suffer from increased health problems. They have much higher incidences of depression, hypertension and impaired kidney function, slow wound healing, reduced immune function and elevated bio-markers for cardiovascular disease. These are only some of the documented risks among caregivers that actually go to the doctor. Studies show that caregivers of people with dementia are 15 percent less likely to even go to the doctor. Almost 60 percent of caregivers die before the person they are caring for.
Please thank Senator Barrasso, Senator Enzi and Representative Cheney for supporting the RAISE Family Caregivers Act. It passed the House in december and the Senate on Jan. 8. One more signature and it will be passed into law.