Alzheimer's Disease: Women, Watch Out

From the Show: HER
Summary: Women are more likely to suffer from Alzheimer's disease than men.
Air Date: 5/12/16
Duration: 10
Host: Michelle King Robson and Pam Peeke, MD
Guest Bio: Maria Shriver
Maria ShriverMaria Shriver is the mother of four, a Peabody and Emmy-winning journalist and producer, a six-time New York Times best-selling author, and an NBC News Special Anchor reporting on the shifting roles, emerging power and evolving needs of women in modern life. She creates socially conscious television, books, films and digital media with the purpose of informing, inspiring and igniting hearts and minds in a discussion that produce positive impact in the world.

Shriver’s work is driven by her belief that all of us have the ability to be what she calls Architects of Change — people who see a problem in their own life or the community around them, then step out of their comfort zone and do what it takes to create the solution. Her website, MariaShriver.com, features life stories and life lessons from Architects of Change aimed at inspiring people to use their own ideas, influence and initiative to go out and make an impact on our world.

Shriver has long championed for women’s empowerment, economic entrepreneurship and social justice. To that end, she has created programs, issued reports and produced films all with the singular goal of advancing women both personally and professionally.

Since 2009, Shriver has produced the groundbreaking and award-winning series of Shriver Reports that chronicle and explore seismic shifts in the American culture and society affecting women today. The most recent, “A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back From the Brink,” received over a billion media impressions after reporting for the first time that one in three women in America are living in poverty or teetering on its bring. The award-winning report was honored by the Los Angeles Press Club, received the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice’s 2014 Justice Award and Shriver was named a 2015 Disruptive Woman to Watch by the Disruptive Women in Healthcare media group. As part of the multi-platform initiative, Shriver executive produced the documentary, Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert, following a woman living on the brink, which was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Documentary Special.

Shriver was California’s First Lady from 2003 to 2010 and, during that time, she spearheaded what became the nation’s premier forum for women, The Women’s Conference.

With a career in journalism spanning more than two decades, Shriver was a network news correspondent and anchor for CBS and NBC. She took a leave of absence from network news in 2004 when she became First Lady of California, but she continued to train her journalist’s eye on the transformative societal trends impacting women as breadwinners, parents, caregivers and consumers. In 2009, she published the The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything, which revealed that women, for the first time in our nation’s history, represented half of all U.S. workers. The report examined how that new reality is changing everything about how we live and work today. In 2010, she published The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Takes on Alzheimer’s, which was the largest study ever conducted to look at the significant impact of Alzheimer’s disease on women who, the study found, make up the majority of patients and caregivers. In 2014, she published The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back From the Brink, which revealed that 42 million working American woman are living at or below the brink of poverty and supporting 28 million children. One such woman was the subject of the HBO documentary Shriver executive produced, Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert. Each Shriver Report has ignited national conversations about the changing status of women that continue on today.

During Shriver’s tenure as California’s First Lady, she redefined the office by approaching it not simply as an honorary role, but as a job with real purpose and a platform to make a difference. Shriver created pioneering programs and initiatives that addressed the emerging needs of women, the working poor, military families and the intellectually and developmentally disabled.

Under Shriver’s direction and vision, the California Governor and First Lady’s Conference on Women grew into the world’s premier forum for women. Each year, The Women’s Conference, as it came to be known, encouraged tens of thousands of women to become Architects of Change – and invited hundreds of the world’s greatest voices, hearts and minds to teach them how. The success of The Women’s Conference enabled the conference organization to fund programs and form partnerships that empowered women year round, in all areas of their lives. In 2004, Shriver created The Minerva Awards and Minerva Prize to recognize and reward remarkable women who have stepped forward and changed the world with their courage, wisdom, and strength. With Shriver at the helm, the conference became a force for change, directly funding more than $5.5 million in charitable programs that served women on the frontlines of humanity.

During the nation’s toughest economic downturn since the Great Depression, Shriver’s WE Connect program linked millions of low-income working families, many of whom had never before needed help, with financial resources such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, foreclosure assistance, job placement, resume assistance, and other important money-saving programs. The program also provided more than 2 million healthy meals to families in need. Shriver’s The Modern House Call for Women, a groundbreaking three-day health and financial services clinic, provided 5,000 free medical, dental and financial services to nearly 2,500 people. Through Shriver’s WE Invest program and its partnership with Kiva.org, hundreds of women entrepreneurs in the U.S. received micro-loans totaling more than $1 million.

Shriver is one of the nation’s leading advocates for families struggling with Alzheimer’s disease. Her father, Sargent Shriver, was diagnosed with the disease in 2003 and passed away from it in 2011 at the age of 95. In 2009, Shriver co-executive produced the Emmy Award-winning four-part HBO documentary series called The Alzheimer’s Project, which opened millions of people’s eyes to the devastating disease. One of the films in the series, “Grandpa, Do you Know Who I Am?” was honored by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for exemplifying “television with a conscience” and was based on Shriver’s best-selling children’s book dealing with Alzheimer’s. In 2009, Shriver testified before the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging to encourage Congress to make Alzheimer’s a national legislative priority. Shriver’s voice was instrumental in the December 2010 passage of the National Alzheimer’s Project Act. In addition, Shriver serves on the advisory board of the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas.

Shriver has also been a lifelong advocate for people with intellectual disabilities. She is an active member of the International Board of Special Olympics, the organization her mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founded in 1968. She is also on the advisory board of Best Buddies, a one-to-one friendship and jobs program for people with intellectual disabilities. In addition, Shriver serves as Chair of the Audi Best Buddies Challenge: Hearst Castle, an annual bike ride that raises millions of dollars for programs supporting people with intellectual disabilities. Shriver’s own fundraising team — Team Maria — has raised more than $1.2 million for Best Buddies over the past five years.

Shriver is an entrepreneur and investor in Blaze Pizza and Lovin’ Scoopful, which donates a significant portion of its profits to Special Olympics.

Shriver also served as an executive producer for the masculinity-examining documentary The Mask You Live In and the Oscar Award-winning Still Alice, an adaptation of Lisa Genova’s 2007 novel of the same name, which tells the tale of a woman affected by early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

The mother of four children, Shriver is a graduate of Georgetown University, with a degree in American Studies.
Alzheimer's Disease: Women, Watch Out
Alzheimer's disease is disproportionately affecting women.

A woman in her early 60s is twice as likely to get Alzheimer's than breast cancer.

Your family needs to be aware of your mental health and family history. If you are a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer's disease, your children should be familiar with signs so they can watch out for you. Discuss later care options while you can make your own decisions.

Your brain needs blood flow. Be sure you have a regular exercise routine. Take time off from your devices. Get enough sleep so your brain can rest. Cut back on sugar.

Get a baseline exam for your memory before you turn 60. You need a basis for comparison as you age.

Maria Shriver joins Dr. Pam Peeke to discuss the battle against Alzheimer's disease.