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The Price Women Pay for Dementia: Strategies to Ease Gender Disparity and Economic Costs

Mar 01, 2016
Publisher: Milken Institute

Dementia presents a pernicious gender-based health disparity in the United States, inflicting a disproportionate burden on women as both patients and caregivers. This has been attributed to the fact that women live longer than men and have higher incidences of chronic diseases that increase the risk of developing dementia; however, recent research suggests there may be biological pathways that lead to greater cognitive impairment in females. Women also make up the majority of informal caregivers, often as family members of dementia patients who need around-the-clock assistance with the most basic needs.

Given the rapid increase in the population of older Americans, the number of women with dementia and those serving as informal caregivers will escalate and cost the economy a cumulative $5.1 trillion (in 2012 dollars) through 2040. In addition to the financial incentive for narrowing gender disparities, there is a moral obligation to do so. The gender-related health disparity seen with dementia works to aggravate other economic disparities for women and impairs quality of life for all.

This report provides fact-based evidence of the economic burden of dementia on women by aggregating the effects on the health-care system, the labor market, and living arrangements. It exposes an insidious impact that is often discussed in whispers: the gender disparities that women suffer as patients and caregivers, and the particularly intensive role of the dementia caregiver.

It will take a concerted effort on various fronts to tackle dementia effectively. This report details five policy prescriptions:

  1. Widen Access to Health Care
  2. Expand Scope and Flow of Services
  3. Raise Dementia Awareness and Expand Caregiver Training
  4. Provide Support in the Workplace
  5. Increase Funding for Alzheimer’s and Dementia Research