Maria Shriver writes “A Woman’s Nation Takes on Alzheimer’s”

Written by Nicole Scheidl

April 28, 2011

Maria Shriver writes movingly about her experience as a child of Alzheimer’s following the death of her father Sargent Shriver from Alzheimer’s disease, in a report she wrote in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association. The report included a nationwide survey and came to the following conclusions:

Almost 90 percent of Americans who know someone with the disease are concerned that they or someone close to them will get Alzheimer’s.

Half of women caring for someone with Alzheimer’s are providing more than 40 hours a week of care. A third of women caregivers care for their loved one 24/7.

Nearly 41 percent of the women caregivers said they had no choice in taking care of their loved one with Alzheimer’s.

More than half of the family caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s we surveyed said it’s straining their family finances.

Nearly 65 percent of working caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s told us they need to come to work late, leave early or take time off from their jobs as a result of their caregiving responsibilities.

Nearly a third of women caregivers rate the physical stress level of caregiving a 5 out of 5.

The greatest fears women voice about getting Alzheimer’s is that they will forget their loved ones, become a burden to their families and not be able to care for themselves.

As she points out in her report American women are stressed out and maxed out and they need support. And her observations certainly apply to Canadian women as well. As the wife of a politician and coming from a political family, she knows firsthand the requirement for a national conversation to discuss the needs of Alzheimer families. Many of her suggestions would resonate in this country as well.

A meaningful Elder Care Tax Credit

Incentivizing flextime programs, so employers are really encouraged to offer flexible work hours to their caregiving employees

Elder Care Leave, including coverage for emergencies at home.

Access to high-quality Alzheimer training for both family members and paid home healthcare aides. Teaching family members how to really stay on top of all the medications they have to dispense.

More elder daycare programs staffed with people actually accredited for Alzheimer care.

Intergenerational daycare centers, where toddlers and people with Alzheimer’s spend the day together. They eat together, they dance together, go to storytime together. It’s quite moving to behold. And what about more intergenerational playground, so Sandwich Generation people—taking care of both kids and parents—can go to one place with all of them.

More governmental support for adult daycare and respite care programs in general, so we can give family caregivers a break now and then.

While a national conversation is important, healthcare initiatives must begin at the provincial levels, where the constitutional authority and responsibility lies and at the local and regional levels where health care is delivered. It’s time to start a caregiving conversation in this country.

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1 Comment

  1. Caiden

    Thanks for writing such an easy-to-understand article on this topic.


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