Majority Of Americans Have Astounding Knowledge Gap About The Realities Of Alzheimer’s And Caregiving

The majority of Americans, particularly women, are dramatically uninformed about their vulnerability to Alzheimer’s disease and don’t realize that there are steps they could be taking today to protect their brain health, and are unprepared for the long-term care needs associated with the disease. Many, in fact, incorrectly believe that they don’t have to worry about getting Alzheimer’s if the disease doesn’t run in their families. These are the sobering findings from a new poll released by Maria Shriver’s Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement and the Bipartisan Policy Center. Shriver previewed the results today at Hearst Tower in New York City at her first-ever summit on women’s brain health, co-sponsored by the Lifetime television network.

Among the findings:

  • Only 22 percent of all Americans (27 percent of women) know that Alzheimer’s disproportionally affects women.
  • Seventy-one percent of American women—both millennial and non-millennial women—believe you don’t begin to develop any symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease until you are 60 or older.
  • Forty-four percent of all Americans, and 42 percent of women, say they aren’t that worried, or aren’t worried at all, about getting Alzheimer’s disease. The majority of these individuals incorrectly believe that they don’t have to worry because the disease doesn’t run in their family, despite research that proves your genes are not your destiny.
  • Sixty-six percent of Americans (64 percent of women) want a family member to be their primary caregiver. Yet only 1 in 4 seniors have had the conversation with their children, and only 1 in 3 millennials have talked with their parents about the issue.
  • Women make up two-thirds of the caregivers in America. Yet, 54 percent of American women report that they are ill-prepared to take care of their parents. 50% of millennial women report feeling that way.
  • Fifty-four percent of Americans (53 percent of women) say long-term care will cost $25,000 or less per year, even though it’s been shown to cost nearly double that amount. Nearly half of millennials believe it will cost less than$18,000 per year.

When it comes to the state of their health today, millennial women, in particular, are most likely to report high stress than any other age group. 43 percent of women 18-34 report suffering from high stress; 31 percent report being overweight; and 44 percent report experiencing mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

Taking into account these known facts, 68 percent of American women, 64 percent among millennials, say they would be likely to make changes to their lives if they thought there was something they could do to reduce their risk for cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, the more people are knowledgeable about Alzheimer’s, the more they report being worried of the disease and their risk.

“While many American women have heard the word ‘Alzheimer’s,’ only a small percentage of them truly realize that they are vulnerable,” said Shriver. “But there is a hunger for information and a willingness to change lifestyle behaviors. People just want to know what they have to do. There is a huge opening here to educate the American public, especially women. This is a major opportunity for doctors, corporations, nonprofits and the government to step forward and help. People have a desire to help wipe out this disease. They just have a lack of information about what they can do to affect their likelihood of getting it.”

Americans, particularly women also reported feeling overwhelmed and unprepared for the expectations that come along with being a caregiver. The majority say they want to be the one to care for a family member in need, but they know next to nothing about the cost of the disease, who pays for it, or what to do about it. In fact, the majority of Americans say they want a family member to care for them, but haven’t even had the conversation with their loved ones about what that means. Many incorrectly believe that Medicare will help cover the costs, which can bankrupt families.

In 2014, the average annual cost to live in a nursing facility was $87,600; the cost for a home health aide was $45,800; and participation in a community-based adult day-care center was $16,900. In contrast, the average per-capita retirement savings among Americans age 62 and older was $20,000 in 2015.

“Most Americans are unaware of their risk of Alzheimer’s, unprepared to be a family caregiver, and uninformed about the cost of care,” said Katherine Hayes, Director of Health Policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “Individuals and family caregivers in need of long-term services and supports, such as bathing, dressing and medication management, often face devastating out-of-pocket costs. These survey results should prompt every family to sit down together and make a plan for addressing their long-term health care needs.”

Conducted October 18-23, 2017, the poll by Hart Research Associates surveyed a nationally representative sample of 800 Americans online, with an additional 100 interviews among millennial women and millennial men, respectively on Alzheimer’s disease, long-term care and their feelings on the state of their health today. For more information and a complete copy of survey results, please go here and

Shriver brought her longtime commitment to women’s health and Alzheimer’s disease to New York City for her first annual “A Women’s Health Summit: It Starts with the Brain,” an afternoon of informative conversation about women, brain health and brain science and discussion of survey results.  The summit was co-hosted by Shriver and Nancy Dubuc, president and CEO, A+E Networks.

The health summit and the release of the poll coincide with the start of National Alzheimer’s Disease and Family Caregivers Month, which was designated by President Ronald Reagan in 1983. Fewer than 2 million Americans had Alzheimer’s at the time. Now, that number has risen to 5.4 million and a new person being diagnosed every 66 seconds. Two-thirds of those brains belong to women.

Source via PR Newswire

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