Because a disproportionate number of Alzheimer’s disease patients and caregivers are women, the Alzheimer’s Association and The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement (WAM) are leading a global movement to do something about it.
Announced March 8 on International Women’s Day, efforts include a South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference & Festivals session featuring WAM founder Maria Shriver, choirs of women across the nation, and a #RaiseYourVoice4Alz social media campaign.
The facts, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, are these:
- Women in their 60s are more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s as they are to develop breast cancer.
- In the United States alone, 13 million women either live with Alzheimer’s or care for someone who has it.
- Of the 5.8 million U.S. residents living with the disease, nearly two-thirds are women. More specifically, more than a third of caregivers are patients’ daughters.
- Women take on more care-giving tasks than their male counterparts.
- Nearly 19 percent of female Alzheimer’s caregivers had to quit work either to become a caregiver, or because their care-giving duties became too burdensome.
“More women are living with Alzheimer’s disease in America than men, and no one knows why that is,” said Shriver in a press release. “More women are also caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease. It is critical that people understand the devastating impact this disease has on millions. This is not an ‘old person’s disease,’ this is a mind-blowing problem that is sweeping across all generations.”
The SXSW, held in Austin, Texas, March 8-17, is an annual conglomerate of film, interactive media, music festivals and conferences. On March 8, Shriver hosted a candid conversation about women’s brain health and universal implications. She was joined by Alexandra Socha, Farida Sohrabji, PhD, and Ashley C. Ford.
In addition to founding the non-profit WAM, Shriver is an award-winning journalist, producer, and author. Socha, an actress, became an Alzheimer’s Association advocate after her mother was diagnosed with the disease at age 50. Sohrabji is founder and director of the Women’s Health in Neuroscience Program at the Texas A&M College of Medicine, and an advocate for the inclusion of different genders and sexes in biomedical research. Ford is a renowned writer, podcaster and educator.
Because women are at the center of the global health crisis, women nationwide are joining a host of so-called AlzheimHER’s Choirs including the Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based Amazing Grace Chorus, a vocal group comprised of women living with the disease, or whose lives are touched by it. Joined by female members of the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute, the chorus made a public service video that’s become part of the national campaign.
In Montgomery, Alabama, the 50-member Side-by-Side singers includes Alzheimer’s, stroke and dementia patients, their caregivers and volunteers. The Chicago, Illinois-based Good Memories Chorus brings together those with memory loss, plus caregivers and volunteers, to share the joy of music. Founded in 2011, The Unforgettables in New York City is an outlet for those living with dementia to make music and enjoy time with their families.
Recently, the choirs came together to form the AlzheimHER’s Chorus and sing inspirational and empowering songs. The campaign features an opportunity to sing Karaoke-style with the chorus on Facebook and share their duet on social media.
“The power and inspiration of these women, coupled with the strength of music, will ignite a movement of people to raise their voices to advance the Alzheimer’s cause together,” said Michael Carson, chief marketing officer, Alzheimer’s Association.
“As the leaders in the field, the Alzheimer’s Association is committed to providing care and support for people facing this devastating and deadly disease, while also funding and convening the global science community that will answer why this disease disproportionately impacts women,” Carson said.
To join the effort, view the public service video, sing with the AlzheimHER’s Choir, and donate to support research about Alzheimer’s and women, visit alz.org/raiseyourvoice.
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