Seventy-five top Alzheimer’s and dementia experts collaborated on a 10-year strategic plan for researchers, policymakers and caregivers.
A new report released by AARP and the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement synthesizes years of data and findings to help explain why women are disproportionately affected by Alzheimer’s disease.
Two-thirds of the 5.8 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease today are women, and they also do the majority of caregiving for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
“It’s Time to Act: The Challenges of Alzheimer’s and Dementia for Women” is a comprehensive examination of the state of research and offers a first-ever five-point strategic plan for all who seek meaningful change in the next decade.
At current rates, 13.8 million Americans will be living with dementia by the middle of the century, and most of them will be women — yet there is still no vaccine or cure.
Ten years ago, the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement partnered with the Alzheimer’s Assn. and, with additional support from AARP, first cast a spotlight on the extraordinary burden that women carry for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia in “The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Takes on Alzheimer’s.”
Since that time, there are still not enough answers to address the enormous physical, social and financial challenges these brain diseases place on women.
“It’s Time to Act” is the culmination of a yearlong effort by AARP and WAM supported by the AARP Foundation’s A. Barry Rand Fund for Brain Health Research. The two organizations convened 75 dementia researchers, advocates and policy experts to examine the current state of research, identify gaps in knowledge and forge a path forward with a strategic plan addressing both science and policy. This group will collaborate to drive change for women and dementia over the next decade.
“At AARP, we recognize that we can’t simply sit back and wait for a cure for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. We need to work to reduce risk, improve care and help people keep their brains healthy while they age,” said AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins. “But no one organization or researcher can do it alone. We need to tap into everyone’s strengths and also make a call for women to take ownership of their own brain health.”
“Medical research has historically left women out of clinical trials, making the assumption that they are basically the same as men,” said Maria Shriver, founder of the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement. “That has led to a gap in knowledge about women’s health in general and Alzheimer’s in particular. We have got to close that gap. And, if the COVID-19 crisis has taught us nothing else, it is that we must be prepared for an epidemic that data predicts — and science accepts — as inevitable fact. We cannot allow Alzheimer’s and dementia to continue to claim the lives of our mothers, aunts, grandmothers, sisters, nieces, daughters and friends in record numbers.”
Founded by Shriver, the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to raising awareness about women’s increased risk for Alzheimer’s and to educating the public — women and men — about lifestyle changes they can make to protect their brain health. Through annual campaigns and initiatives, WAM raises funds to support women-based Alzheimer’s research at leading scientific institutions around the country.
The report’s recommended strategic plan details a global strategy to help all women and their families who are contending with Alzheimer’s and dementia, regardless of income, ethnicity, education or cultural background. The five-step action plan strives to:
- Eliminate the Stigma of Dementia.Stigma stands in the way of diagnosis and quality care for this serious, public health problem.
- Empower Women to Stay Brain Healthy. Science has shown that we can all do a great deal to promote our own brain health.
- Ensure That Research Is Inclusive.Researchers must learn why dementia affects so many women and underserved communities, and they should report such data in their findings.
- Support Family Caregivers.All family caregivers should have access to training and local services that help them perform their duties. They should have paid leave and health care benefits.
- Improve Medical Training for Dementia.Health care providers must do a better job of addressing, spotting and treating cognitive decline in older women.
The full report and recommendations are available online at https://www.aarp.org/health/brain-health/global-council-on-brain-health/womens-report.
“Putting the spotlight back on better brain health will improve lives for everyone — but it will make the greatest difference for women because women bear a disproportionate burden, and underserved communities are especially affected,” said Sarah Lenz Lock, senior VP at AARP and executive director of the Global Council on Brain Health.
Ron Mori is a member of the Washington, D.C, JACL chapter and manager of community, states and national affairs — multicultural leadership for AARP.
Statement From AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The following statement was released by AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins:
“As we witness the protests over racial injustice and face the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we believe our nation desperately needs healing. The incidents of racial violence and COVID-1i’s disproportionate impact on people of color are not random, but instead are the result of inequality due to a lack of social, economic and political opportunities. Discrimination of any kind corrodes our communities and our society from the inside out.
“AARP today continues to be guided by the promise that our founder, Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, made over 60 years ago: ‘What we do, we do for all.’ Through our advocacy, programs and services, we fight against discrimination, advocate for access to health care and work to improve the lives of all people, especially those most vulnerable.
“As we consider this moment in time, it’s clear this work is more important than ever. During these difficult days, AARP will use its voice, resources and trust in our brand to continue our fight for what is right so all people can live a life of dignity regardless of race, age or income.”