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When we gather on May 9 to celebrate Mother’s Day, give a special thought for the more than 4 million women across the United States who are living with a unique challenge: Alzheimer’s disease.
Roughly two-thirds of the 6.2 million people in the U.S. living with Alzheimer’s are women. Supporting and caring for these individuals are 11.2 million unpaid caregivers – family and friends – who volunteer their time and energy. Perhaps it comes as no surprise that nearly two-thirds of those caregivers are…you guessed it…women – sisters, daughters and, often, mothers themselves.
In Colorado alone, 76,000 people – about 50,000 of them women – are living with Alzheimer’s disease, which is the last major disease without a prevention, treatment or cure.
“Even when our beloved mother, or grandmother, or wife, or sister is living with Alzheimer’s disease, there are many ways to celebrate and honor our loved ones on Mother’s Day in a manner that they can appreciate and enjoy while recognizing the challenges this disease presents,” said Amelia Schafer, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado.
The Alzheimer’s Association has a number of tips that will help families celebrate Mother’s Day with their loved one:
- Take a person-centered approach. Focus on what is enjoyable for the person with Alzheimer’s, such as looking at family pictures or enjoying the person’s favorite food. Since large gatherings are still not recommended out of recognition of COVID risks, a small, quiet gathering is best.
- Keep it simple. Consider a celebration over lunch or brunch at home or where the person is most comfortable. Ask family or friends to bring dishes for a potluck meal or have food delivered by a local restaurant or grocery store.
- Don’t overdue it. Sticking to the person’s normal routine will help keep the day from becoming disruptive or confusing. Depending on the person’s stamina, plan time for breaks so the person can rest in a quiet area away from noise and crowds.
- Adapt gift giving. Encourage safe and useful gifts for the person with Alzheimer’s. If someone asks for gift ideas, suggest items the person with dementia needs or can easily enjoy. Ideas include: an identification bracelet, CDs of favorite music, comfortable clothing, favorite foods and photo albums of family and friends.
- Find support. Learn more about Alzheimer’s in the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiver Center at www.alz.org/care. There you can also find more tips on supporting a family member with Alzheimer’s, join the ALZConnected online community, and find more information about the programs and services offered through the Alzheimer’s Association – all at no charge to families.
Women and Alzheimer’s disease
- Women are at the epicenter of the Alzheimer’s crisis. About 11.4 million women in the U.S. are either living with Alzheimer’s or caring for someone who has it.
- Women in their 60s are more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s over the course of their lifetime as they are to develop breast cancer.
- The risk for women developing Alzheimer’s is 1 in 5, versus 1 in 11 for breast cancer.
- Because of caregiving duties, women are likely to experience adverse consequences in the workplace.
- Nearly 19 percent of women Alzheimer’s caregivers had to quit work either to become a caregiver or because their caregiving duties became too burdensome.