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Risk of Developing Alzheimer's Greater for Women

Created: 03/19/2014 10:55 PM KAALtv.com
By: Jenna Lohse

(ABC 6 News) -- A new study released today from the Alzheimer's Association found women have a much greater chance of developing the disease compared to men. They're also the ones more likely to care for someone with Alzheimer’s Disease.

For more than 50 years, Harley Flathers has cared for his wife.

"She's doing very well, some days better than others,” said Harley Flathers of Rochester.

Just nine years ago, his wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. They now live at Shorewood Senior Campus in Rochester, which gives his wife the extra help she needs. For Harley, it's hard seeing the love of his life not always remember things. "Yeah, just not knowing who you are, you're not my husband,” said Flathers.

A sad reality many families go through. A new study from the Alzheimer’s Association shows the disease is already the sixth-leading cause of death in America, claiming a half million lives each year. A new victim is diagnosed nearly every minute.

"The majority of Alzheimer’s, as we best we know at the moment, is not genetic,” said Dr. Robert Kane, endowed chair in Long-term Care and Aging at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

The study also found women at age 65 have a one in six chance of developing the disease compared to one in eleven men.

Karen Hanson works for Home Instead Senior Center, helping families deal with Alzheimer’s. Of the 200 patients they work with, "75% of them probably have some form of dementia,” said Hanson.

Recently, Karen’s work hit a little closer to home. Her mom was diagnosed. "When she forgets things that she should know, it's just hard, because you know that's just a little piece of what the puzzles going to be down the road,” said Hanson.

But for Karen and other family members of those impacted, it's the memories they'll cherish and the hope there will one day be a cure.

"Marriage vows said in sickness and health, for better or worse, till death do us part and that's what I’ve made my decision. I still love my wife, even though she has some problems and I have mine," said Flathers.

More research for a cure is what these families and many others are hoping for. An event was held at Gonnie's Comedy Club in Rochester Tuesday night. The money raised will go to Mayo Clinic's Alzheimer’s Research Center and other local programs.