Powerhouse Maria Shriver Drives New Alzheimer’s Disease Movement

September 30, 2015

Women Home Care Providers Targeted

Maria ShriverIn 2011, award-winning journalist and author Maria Shriver lost her father, Sargent Shriver to Alzheimer’s disease. A founder of the Peace Corps, Job Corps and Head Start, the elder Shriver was pivotal in President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty.” He also served as the U.S. Ambassador to France and in many public and private positions. When he died in 2011, President Barak Obama called him, “one of the brightest lights of the greatest generation.”

And yet when Alzheimer’s disease began to diminish Shriver’s mind, the family was as terrified and helpless as anyone’s. The money and power behind the Kennedy/Shriver clan couldn’t stop the relentless march of the disease over the former statesman’s last eight years of life.

Years of Preparation, and then an Announcement: The Wipe Out Alzheimer’s Challenge

Shriver relates that, during her father’s struggle in the early 2000s, Alzheimer’s disease was surrounded in shame and silence. To draw attention to the overlooked epidemic (5 million Americans have an Alzheimer’s diagnosis), in 2010, she published, The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Takes on Alzheimer’s,” which revealed that at that time half of those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are women, but more impactful, and nearly two-thirds of the unpaid caregivers of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are women as well.

Shriver worked for years to bring more attention to the disease and one of her efforts resulted in the 2014 movie, Still Alice, for which Julienne Moore won the Oscar for best actress. Shriver continued work behind the scenes on various projects, but in March of 2015 announced The Wipe Out Alzheimer’s Challenge.

With 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day, 13.5 million Americans will have Alzheimer’s disease by 2050. As Shriver explains in a CNN article,i

“We have to fund this research, because for some reason it’s not a priority for the government. In 2015, Washington will spend an estimated $6 billion on cancer research and $3 billion on HIV/AIDS research, but only $586 million on Alzheimer’s. Yet, as the Alzheimer’s Association tells us, “the costs to all payers for the care of people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias will total an estimated $226 billion, with Medicare and Medicaid paying 68 percent of the costs.”

What Every Woman Should Know About Alzheimer’s Disease

The facts are in: as of 2014, two-thirds of Alzheimer’s patients were women. This increase from 2010 figures may result from the fact that women are living longer or they’re simply getting better diagnoses. Because 60% of Alzheimer’s home care providers are women, the Wipe Out Alzheimer’s Challenge aims to create community groups that meet on a regular basis. Called Brain Clubs, the organization provides guidelines for creating discussion meetings, teams for Walk to End Alzheimer’s events or a Wipe Out Alzheimer’s book club. All possibilities get Alzheimer’s patients, their home care providers and their families meeting—not only to support each other—but to advocate for more funding for research.

While the organization strives to eventually create a global community of women activists, in the short term, it provides a safe place to explore questions like:

  • Why do women succumb to Alzheimer’s disease more often than men?
  • What’s estrogen’s role in inciting, perpetuating or curbing the disease?
  • Why is there so much more funding for cancer and other diseases?
  • Why do Americans consider Alzheimer’s a natural aspect of aging rather than a disease that kills?
  • Is Alzheimer’s genetic, linked to depression, diet or stress?

My Care Match Supports The Wipe Out Alzheimer’s Challenge

Shriver just announced the “Wipe Out Alzheimer’s” campaign in March 2015. As the movement takes shape, My Care Match will keep you informed of their progress from time to time through our blog. Watch for it on the news as well. Those who would appreciate a nearby Brain Club should consider starting a local chapter on their own. The organization has created all the materials and protocol for you.

Connecting those who need care with trained home care providers, home care agencies and assisted living facilities, My Care Match helps families nationwide provide loving, consistent support. Our easy Internet portal helps you start finding home care providers or in home care job opportunities within minutes and according to your issues. Feel free to contact us, too, with any questions you may have.

i Shriver, Maria. “How women can wipe out Alzheimer’s.” www.cnn.com. 13 March 2015.

About the Author

Doug Breuer is co-founder of MyCareMatch.com and has worked in senior care for the last 9 years for the State of Oregon. From investigating cases of elder abuse to managing the delivery of long term care to residents of Central Oregon, Doug has been involved in all aspects of senior care.

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