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Women bear the brunt of costs for Alzheimer’s care, says study

A study by Emory University researchers has found that women shoulder six times the cost of Alzheimer’s disease care than men. The greater burden in expenses is mainly due to the informal care that women provide to family members who have the degenerative brain disorder.

Researchers examined three factors to calculate Alzheimer’s care costs using data collected from the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey between 2000 and 2010. They looked at the chances of developing the disease, its duration, and the formal and informal care required for the patient. The findings were published in the journal Women’s Health Issues on Sept. 10.

Results showed that female Alzheimer’s patients have 16 percent higher Medicare costs and 70 percent higher Medicaid costs than male patients over their lifetime. The greatest gender difference was in the cost of informal care, which is often an inherent source of stress. For male patients, the value of the time and energy a female family member is likely to spend in caregiving is 20 times more than when the caregiver-patient roles are reversed, the researchers said.

“There is strong evidence that women face higher risks of being affected by Alzheimer’s as either patients or informal caregivers,” said Zhou Yang, one of the study’s authors. “It is critical to develop public policy interventions aimed at curing or slowing the progress of the disease to benefit the health and economic welfare of women everywhere.”

The researchers recommended policy reforms, such as to Medicare and Medicaid payments, to address the disparate economic impact of Alzheimer’s on women as caregivers and patients.

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