For years, we’ve read that Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia. That’s not entirely true.
The leading cause is “caregiver dementia,” which strikes an estimated 100 million overwhelmed and stressed-out caregivers worldwide. The term was used initially in the 1980s, and while not an official medical diagnosis, it includes symptoms such as disorientation, forgetfulness and depression.
Stressful conditions produce high levels of the hormone cortisol, which, over time, may contribute to memory loss. Think about it: You’re working long hours, you see no end in sight and you’re exhausted. Who can think straight under those conditions?
A 2010 Utah study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society of 1,221 couples tracked for 12 years found that seniors caring for a husband or wife with dementia had six times the risk of getting dementia as members of the general population. Surprisingly, men were most susceptible, facing double that risk.
Some Dementias Are Reversible
Even undiagnosed urinary tract infections may lead to sudden behavior changes such as confusion, agitation, withdrawal or delirium.
Medicines will also have varying effects, as we grow older. As we age, our liver and kidneys don’t work as efficiently resulting in a buildup over time of unprocessed medications. These chemicals become toxic leading to dementia symptoms or delirium.
Which leaves us with caregiver dementia.
Until caregivers are able to take proactive steps to overcome feelings of hopelessness resulting from the stress of caring for another person, they’ll continue to endure embarrassing and even scary moments.
Caregivers Will Overcome
The onset of caregiver dementia is real and it strikes primary caregivers. Those who heed the call and take action will survive.
But there’s more to being a caregiver than just surviving. We need to apply both legs of our “caring” and “giving” nature to overcome and thrive. We start with a break. As little as a five-minute respite can make all the difference. Ultimately, we’ll need help. Today, caregivers have a variety of options to choose from, including in-home and adult day care, residential care and assisted living. The only other cure is to stop caregiving, and this is not an option for many.
US News - Health