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Entries in alzheimer's disease (44)

Tuesday
Oct192010

Taking Care of Alzheimer's: the Burden on Women

Photo Courtesy - Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's disease can be a 24/7 job, taking an emotional, financial and even physical toll on caretakers, especially if they're women, according to the Shriver Report on Alzheimer's.

Maria Shriver's study, released Oct. 15, details the special burden women face as caretakers.  The majority of Alzheimer's patients and caretakers are women, and more than half of them report serious emotional and physical stress that results from taking on the care of their ailing loved ones.

"All my time is taking care of my mother.  Your whole life is devoted to somebody else, as if you had a little baby," says Ana Marie Ortega, 63, who has been caring for her 89-year-old mother, Teodora Ortega, for the past decade since she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

As with many caretakers, live-in nurses or nursing homes were not an option for Ortega because of financial and personal reasons, leaving the Sacramento, California native to care for her ailing mother on her own.

"The nursing home was not what I wanted for mom," she says.  "My mother practically raised my daughter so I could get a college education.  She worked so hard all her life.  You have to do the moral thing.  Life doesn't repeat itself.  She might be gone within a year or two and I don't want any regrets."

That choice has meant a lot of sacrifice for Ortega.  She is on leave from her job at the governor's office so she can care for her mother, leaving tight finances and little time to herself.

"It's an emotional, mental, physical struggle," she says.  "She can get very angry and mean when the medication is wearing off and she wasn't that way before.  It's a cruel disease; it robs the person of their life and the people around them.  This time it happens to be me because I chose to take care of mom."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct182010

Alzheimer's Patients' Children Participate in Research

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- For years, treatment for Alzheimer's seemed to have little effect on patients suffering extreme memory loss. Now many who have family members diagnosed with Alzheimer's are volunteering as subjects to help researchers study the disease. And for many researchers, proactive families mean a better opportunity to study brain changes in middle-aged adults as a potential key to treat and prevent the disease.

"The question is, can we find it decades before someone becomes symptomatic?" said Mark Sager, professor in the department of medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health.

Children of Alzheimer's disease patients are more likely to develop the disease themselves, according to the Alzheimer's Association. And more studies looking at early development of the disease suggest that it's time to break the label of Alzheimer's as a disease of old age, said Dr. Suzanne Craft, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle.

"Midlife is a time of great vulnerability and the choices we make will have a huge impact in the way our body ages but also in the way our brain ages," Craft said.

While most research for treatment focuses on slowing the progression of the disease, many researchers such as Craft are also looking at ways to delay its onset.

There is currently no treatment for the 5.3 million Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and the number of cases is rising.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct152010

Alzheimer's Daughter: Maria Shriver Takes on Disease With Second Shriver Report

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- One of the nation's highest-profile women is taking on one of the nation's highest-profile health problems.  Alzheimer's.  It has affected her father and more than five million other Americans.

The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Takes on Alzheimer's is a collaborative research effort by California First Lady Maria Shriver and the Alzheimer's Association that calls on society and government leaders to address the needs of patients and caregivers, fund more research into treatment for Alzheimer's and other brain diseases and help people prepare for the possibility of a future Alzheimer's diagnosis.  The report's main focus is the impact the disease has on women.

"Alzheimer's is a woman's disease that's dramatically changing the way we live as families," Shriver said.  "Sixty percent of people with Alzheimer's are women, and 60 percent of the caretaking is done by women."

Doctors say there's a simple reason more women have Alzheimer's.

"Women outlive men much longer, so there are more women with Alzheimer's disease," said Dr. Gary Kennedy, director of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center.

This year's report builds on last year's Shriver Report, A Woman's Nation Changes Everything, that found that about two-thirds of women now have to be their family's breadwinner in addition to being a wife, mother and caretaker for elderly or sick relatives.

"The challenge really has got to be how do we support women in all of these roles?  They're strapped and stressed at all ends of the spectrum," she said.

Alzheimer's disease hits close to Shriver's heart.  Her father, Sargent Shriver, has had the disease since 2003.

"Today he doesn't know I'm his daughter and he doesn't even know my name," Shriver wrote in the report.

At the same time she was caring for her father, she also took care of her elderly and ill mother, who died in 2009.

"When I was out doing the women's report, I found many women in my situation -- raising children, working and caring for elderly parents," she said.  This isn't the first time Shriver has taken on Alzheimer's -- she produced a documentary and also wrote a book on the disease.

"There's been a lot written about it, a lot of trials, we've certainly been able to tie cardiovascular health to brain health," she said. "There's a lot of good preventive information that's gone out, so there's a lot of hope, but people get pessimistic because there's no cure."

One of her biggest hopes is to get people talking about Alzheimer's.

"We're trying to take it out of the closet and put it into the living room."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Sep212010

Global Cost of Alzheimer's Care Expected to Rise

The global cost of Alzheimer's disease and dementia care is projected to soar in the upcoming years, according to a report released Tuesday by Alzheimer's Disease International, a non-profit international federation of Alzheimer's organizations. Such costs currently account for one percent of the global gross domestic product, or $604 billion and some estimates say the care-related costs will double by 2030.  The report also states that countries including France, Australia and England have adopted national Alzheimer’s disease plans, while the United States has yet to do so.  An estimated 35.6 million people suffer from dementia worldwide.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio. Image courtesy: ABC News

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