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Blog: Women facing dementia

I have worked in nursing and care since 1997, working with patients in hospitals, care-settings and at home. All my roles have involved working closely with people living with dementia and their carers, of whom the majority have been women. During my career the role of women as both formal and informal carers has become very apparent. Women play a significant part in dementia care and are therefore vital to planning for effective management.

Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI), recently published a report 'Women and Dementia'. (1) The report confirmed that the majority of people living with dementia and those most at risk of developing it are women. Inthe United Kingdom approximately 800,000 people currently have dementia (2) and approximately 61% of those are women. (3) The higher prevalence in women is likely to be due to the fact that age is a big risk factor and women typically live longer than men. (1) In 2013, dementia accounted for 12.2% of deaths - more than heart disease, stroke or the most common forms of cancer. (4)

The report also revealed that when it comes to dementia the overwhelming majority of caregivers are womenwith women accounting for 60-70% of all unpaid carers. (3) Furthermore nurses, who play a vital role as formal carers, are also predominantely women.

Whilst anecdotal evidence provides a rich source of intelligence, there has been little research specifically on experiences of women living with dementia. Further research is needed to provide visibility and solutions for the complexity of women's experiences and how these manifest in their experiences of living with dementia. Such research would help address gender-specific issues when planning service delivery.

Furthermore, I believe that integrated services covering both long term conditions and dementia are vital. Nursing knowledge has to be versatile and diverse, encompassing dementia and other associated long-term conditions. By developing and providing nursing training and practice that takes a holistic approach, not only will the nurse be a central point of access - they will be the linchpin for the person with dementia. This, I believe, will make a big difference to how women who have or care for someone with dementia experience health and social care.

References

1. Women and Dementia: A Global Research Review. Alzheimer's Disease International. http://www.alz.co.uk/women-and-dementia (accessed 29 June 2015)

2. Department of Health. 2010 to 2015 government policy: dementia. 2015. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/2010-to-2015-government-policy-dementia/2010-to-2015-government-policy-dementia. (accessed 29 June 2015)

3. Alzheimer's Research UK. Women and Dementia: A Marginalised Majority. http://cdn.dementiablog.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Women-and-dementia-report.pdf (accessed 29 June 2015)