Caregivers, The Hidden Casualties of Alzheimer’s

by Nancy Wurtzel on October 28, 2015

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The emotional, physical and financial consequences of Alzheimer’s diease is difficult to comprehend. Currently, 5.4 million Americans are living with the disease and it is estimated that 16 million will have Alzheimer’s disease by the year 2050.  Behind these numbers are some even larger numbers, representing Alzheimer’s caregivers throughout the United States.

In 2014, 15.5 million people  provided 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care to those with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.  This unpaid care is valued at more than $220 billion.

To give this number some perspective, it is nearly eight times the 2012 total revenue of McDonald’s Corp.

Alzheimer’s Caregiving Takes a Big Toll

Alzheimer’s caregivers face a long and often arduous journey

For example, caregivers frequently report feeling isolated and overwhelmed.  Nearly 60 percent of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high; more than one-third report symptoms of depression.

Alzheimer’s disease can also take a physical toll.  In 2013, Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers incurred $9.3 billion in additional health care costs of their own.

Caregiving for someone living with Alzheimer’s may begin as occasional help for a loved one, such as assisting with certain tasks, like grocery shopping, laundry and finances.  During the moderate stages of the disease, a caregiver may be needed on a daily basis and eventually as a constant presence in the latter stages.

As the disease progresses, it’s important for caregivers to seek out help.

Caregivers Benefit From Time Away

Many caregivers try to do everything for their loved one, without taking a break.  In the long run, if you insist on shouldering the entire load, you are setting yourself up for disaster.

Look into joining a support group.  These groups can connect you with people who are facing similar circumstances.  It is surprising how much you can benefit from connecting with others who are traveling a similar path.

Alzheimer's, dementia, memory loss, aging, caregivingEstablishing a system of support will help caregivers through the ups and downs of a lengthy caregiving journey.  Ask siblings or other family members to help with caregiving and divide up tasks to lighten the burden.  If finances allow, look into hiring a paid companion or caregiver.  Respite care options are not becoming more common in communities throughout the U.S.

Plan for the future since Alzheimer’s and similar degenerative brain disease are progressive.

None of us can go through life without help.  When you need an electrician, for example, you hire one.  When you can’t move a piece of heavy furniture by yourself, you ask a neighbor or a friend for help.  When you need help figuring out medical and legal options, you turn to a professional for assistance.

When you need a break from your caregiving responsibilities, there is no shame in turning to others.

*Photos Purchased From Dreamstime

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1 Susan Macaulay (@AmazingSusan) October 28, 2015 at 11:07 am

Been there, done that, got the broken pieces to prove it 🙁

Even consciously doing everything I could including exercise, meditation, getting support, asking for support etc. didn’t avert the inevitable near-breakdown. Thankful to have come out alive. Many don’t… 🙁

On the other hand, also experienced unconditional love, healing, and moments of great joy. Life’s like that <3

2 Nancy Wurtzel October 28, 2015 at 11:11 am

I agree…all well and good to put all these “tips” in a blog post. When someone is in the middle of cargiving, it is SO difficult to see any light or have optimism. Maybe someone would read this more toward the beginning of their caregiving journey before it gets bad. It always gets bad. I almost had a breakdown, too. I need to write about it, but it because it makes me so anxious to even think about it. Thank you for reading and for sharing…I really appreciate it very much.

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