Alzheimer's Daughter: Maria Shriver Takes on Disease With Second Shriver Report

Maria Shriver takes on disease that's taking on her father.

ByABC News
October 6, 2010, 2:55 PM

Oct. 15, 2010 -- One of the nation's highest-profile women is taking on one of the nation's highest-profile health problems that have affected her father and more than five million other Americans.

The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Takes on Alzheimer's is a collaborative research effort by California first lady Maria Shriver and the Alzheimer's Association that calls on society and government leaders to address the needs of patients and caregivers, fund more research into treatment for Alzheimer's and other brain diseases and help people prepare for the possibility of a future Alzheimer's diagnosis. The report's main focus is the impact the disease has on women.

"Alzheimer's is a woman's disease that's dramatically changing the way we live as families," Shriver said. "Sixty percent of people with Alzheimer's are women, and 60 percent of the caretaking is done by women."

Doctors say there's a simple reason more women have Alzheimer's.

"Women outlive men much longer, so there are more women with Alzheimer's disease," said Dr. Gary Kennedy, director of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center.

This year's report builds on last year's Shriver Report, A Woman's Nation Changes Everything, that found that about two-thirds of women now have to be their family's breadwinner in addition to being a wife, mother and caretaker for elderly or sick relatives.

"The challenge really has got to be how do we support women in all of these roles? They're strapped and stressed at all ends of the spectrum," she said.

Alzheimer's disease hits close to Shriver's heart. Her father, Sargent Shriver, has had the disease since 2003.

"Today he doesn't know I'm his daughter, and he doesn't even know my name," Shriver wrote in the report.

At the same time she was caring for her father, she also took care of her elderly and ill mother, who died in 2009.

"When I was out doing the women's report, I found many women in my situation -- raising children, working and caring for elderly parents," she said. This isn't the first time Shriver has taken on Alzheimer's -- she produced a documentary and also wrote a book on the disease.