Maria Shriver Examines Impact of Alzheimer's on Women as Caregivers and Patients

California first lady Maria Shriver is harnessing the power of her prominent California Women's Conference to raise awareness about Alzheimer's disease and its impact on American women.

In the lead-up to her annual conference on women's issues, on Oct. 15, Shriver will join with the Alzheimer's Association to release a comprehensive study detailing how the devastating disease affects women as caregivers, advocates and patients.

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Maria Shriver's Minerva Awards

Featuring essays written by personalities from the worlds of politics, entertainment and media, "The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Takes on Alzheimer's" gives an honest and diverse look at the personal, professional and policy dimensions of the disease.

For Shriver, whose father, Sargent Shriver, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2003, this is a continuation of her own efforts to highlight the disease.

"Alzheimer's has had a profound impact on my family. The Alzheimer's Association tells us as many as 5.3 million people, most of them women, are living with Alzheimer's disease in our country -- and unless something is done, by 2050, it will impact as many as 16 million families directly and millions more indirectly," she said.

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"We launched this Shriver Report to shine the spotlight on the fact that Alzheimer's is a national epidemic that affects all of us, not just the elderly, and cuts across economic and age groups to have overpowering implications on all aspects of American life."

According to Shriver and the Alzheimer's Association, as 78 million Baby Boomers enter their mid-60s, an "Alzheimer's tsunami" is about to break.

Women Will Be Disproportionately Affected by Alzheimer's Disease

Women, who are about two-thirds of the Alzheimer's patients in the U.S. and the majority of caregivers for Alzheimer's patients, will be affected disproportionately.

This new landmark study is intended to examine whether America's families, workplaces and healthcare systems are prepared for the impending changes.

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"Given the enormous impact Alzheimer's disease has on women and families in this country, we partnered with Maria Shriver to escalate the national conversation about Alzheimer's. Maria's personal experience with Alzheimer's is relatable to the American public and will help bring the disease to the forefront," said Angela Geiger, Chief Strategy Officer of the Alzheimer's Association.

"With a new person developing Alzheimer's every 70 seconds and women impacted disproportionately as both people with the disease and caregivers, the Alzheimer's Association sees this as an opportunity to illustrate further the devastating path this disease will continue on without adequate funding for care and research," Geiger said.

Laura Bush, Barbra Streisand, Kathleen Sebelius Among Essay Contributors

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Singer Barbra Streisand, former first lady Laura Bush, Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines, ABC News correspondent Terry Moran and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius are among the reports' high-profile contributors.

The study's launch will be complemented by AARP, the national outreach supporter, and coverage by ABC News.

"We know how devastating Alzheimer's is and how important it is for families to have access to the information they need to help them cope. We are honored to be partnering with The Shriver Report on this groundbreaking study and hope our reporting can help shed new light on this heartbreaking disease," said ABC News president David Westin. As the report's media partner, ABC News will provide a week of coverage on the topic across all broadcasts and platforms.

The reports' release will precede Maria Shriver's March on Alzheimer's on Oct. 24, the kickoff event for her annual Women's Conference in Long Beach, Calif. Alzheimer's advocate Leeza Gibbons, conference co-chairs actor Peter Gallagher, Dixie Chicks' Maines, actress and activist Soleil Moon Frye, and members of the cast of "Glee" will join Shriver for the event.

This report is the second in a series of Shriver Reports. Last year, the Center for American Progress partnered with Shriver to publish "The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Changes Everything," which highlighted the fact that women are about two-thirds of the country's primary breadwinners and co-breadwinners.