Alzheimer's disease takes heavy toll on women

Photo: The Associated Press

(WJLA) - A new study by the Alzheimer's Association shows that women over the age of 60 are twice as likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer's than breast cancer.

Helen Downs, 82, didn't expect to live with her daughter-in-law, but she had to.

"She kind of knows us," Mary Driver says, "and some days she does, and some days she doesn't."

Downs’ family says they noticed their mother’s memory and demeanor was changing six years ago. She was later diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Four of her sisters also had the disease.

“The hardest part is watching her lose her memory, her memory of who she loves, who are the people in her life that love her, her recognition of that, that is the hardest part," Driver says.

The study also says “more than 13 million American women either have the disease or are caring for someone with it. The physical and emotional stress, isolation and depression of care giving takes a tremendous toll on womens’ health and well-being.”

Driver quit her job to take care her mother-in-law around the clock.

“We wanted her here. We wanted her to live with the people that love her for as long as she can, and we don’t know what’s around the corner," she says.

Five million Americans are living with Alzheimer's; about 236,000 people are living with the disease in the D.C. area. More research is needed to figure out why women are affected more by the disease than men.