How would you feel if you wake up one day and find yourself surrounded by strangers, all of whom claim to be your family?
How would you feel if one day your mother refused to acknowledge you, saying that she doesn't know you?
Alzheimer's disease takes away the memories of an individual and takes a toll on the patient's family members. The burden of Alzheimer's disease in today's society deserves immediate attention, but one aspect of it which is completely being ignored by the society is how Alzheimer's disease affects women much more than it affects men.
Dr Pranav Kumar, Senior Consultant, Neurosurgeon, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi has highlighted that women are impacted much more often than men - not only as patient but also as care-givers to patients of Alzheimer's.
Almost two-thirds of the patients of Alzheimer's disease are women. Medical science has not been able to find the exact reason for this difference so far though a lot of research is currently underway to unravel this mystery.
They have a higher life expectancy than men in practically every society or ethnic group. This alone however fails to explain the disproportionately higher prevalence of Alzheimer's disease amongst them.
Research has suggested possible role of loss of protective effects of female hormones - estrogen - in post-menopausal women. Are there as yet unknown genetic factors? Or the hormonal imbalance? Or reasons related to woman's life-style? We do not as yet have any answers to these.
"The stigma surrounding dementia especially in women exists universally and in every society. She may be subjected to physical abuse. She is also at risk of sexual abuse. The perpetrator may find an easy alibi in the patient's 'unsound' memory/thinking. A woman patient therefore is exposed to what has been termed as 'triple jeopardy' due to her age, gender and the disease," added Dr. Pranav.
World over, women constitute about 70% of the work force looking after patients of Alzheimer's disease. Care of these patients is very demanding and exacting leading to extreme physical and mental stress in care-givers. This may affect their well-being - physical as well as psychological.
A female care-partner (wife, daughter etc) may also have to make major changes in her personal/professional life - even sacrifice her job. This puts an additional financial strain on the family.