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A Woman's Nation
Takes on Alzheimer's

Welcome to A Woman's Nation. Women are half the work force, raise our children and care for our elderly. Now there's a new pressure on this Woman's Nation: Alzheimer's disease. Maria Shriver and the Alzheimer's Association—the leader in Alzheimer's care, support and research—released The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Takes on Alzheimer's on Oct. 14 to highlight the epidemic's effect on women as caregivers, advocates and people living with this disease.

The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Takes on Alzheimer's demonstrates that women are at the epicenter of the Alzheimer's epidemic. According to the Alzheimer's Association Women and Alzheimer's Poll unveiled in the report, women are almost two-thirds of all Americans with Alzheimer's and comprise 60 percent of the unpaid caregivers for family members and friends with Alzheimer's. That means there are 10 million women who either have Alzheimer's or are caring for someone with the disease. The toll Alzheimer's has on individuals and caregivers is further compounded by the financial burden felt by families and the U.S. government.

The economic impact of Alzheimer's disease—on government, families and business—totals about $300 billion per year in the United States. The cost of caring for a single person with Alzheimer's is a whopping $56,800 a year, the bulk of it borne by each family. And all of these numbers are about to explode. With the baby boomers entering their mid-60s, an Alzheimer's tsunami is about to hit, with the number of people with the disease expected to triple to 16 million by 2050.

A Woman's Nation Takes on Alzheimer's is a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary anthology of every facet of Alzheimer's disease—medical, sociological, political and economic. The academic core of the report is composed of expert reviews of issues and trends, with analysis backed by the nationwide Alzheimer's Association Women and Alzheimer's Poll of 3,118 adults, including more than 500 Alzheimer's caregivers.

But there's more to Alzheimer's than numbers. This report includes original photography by award-winning photojournalist Barbara Kinney and a kaleidoscope of personal essays. Contributors include Barbra Streisand, Terrell Owens, Soleil Moon Frye, ABC News "Nightline" anchor Terry Moran, CBS News correspondent Barry Petersen, former First Lady Laura Bush, President Ronald Reagan's daughter Patti Davis, Alzheimer's Study Group chairs Newt Gingrich and former Sen. Bob Kerrey, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Vice President Joe Biden. In addition, extraordinarily honest and moving essays by a diverse group of Americans—including teenage caregivers and women who are living with the disease today— further illustrate the toll Alzheimer's is taking on the American landscape.

As the country climbs out of a deep recession, A Woman's Nation Takes on Alzheimer's examines the current and projected cost of Alzheimer's to the nation and individual families. With 78 million baby boomers now moving into their later years, the cost of Alzheimer's to American society is expected to be $20 trillion between now and the year 2050.

Unpaid family caregivers are on the frontlines of the battle against Alzheimer's. Over 11.2 million Americans provide billions of hours of unpaid care to people with Alzheimer's and other dementia. More often than not, women report stepping up to become the caregiver because no one else in their family will do it, and 40 percent of them say they had no choice. One-third of female Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers are part of the Sandwich Generation, with children or grandchildren under the age of 18 living in their homes; as a result, women face a double burden. Caregivers' own heath care costs an additional $4 billion a year due to the emotional and physical stress and strain of caregiving.

Caregiving at home almost always affects work and other responsibilities, and A Woman's Nation Takes on Alzheimer's finds that working women feel they get less support for elder care than they do for child care. Almost half of women caregivers report they have tried to get time off from work for their caregiving duties, but couldn't get it.

This is the second in a series of Shriver Reports examining transformational moments in American culture and society. Last year, Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress published The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Changes Everything, a landmark study examining how American families live and work today, now that women are half of all the country's primary and co-breadwinners. The report launched a national conversation about the far-reaching consequences of women's shifting roles in society that continues today.

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Photo credit: Barbara Kinney Photography