Much of the discussion around Alzheimer's deals with those living with the disease. But the flipside of Alzheimer's is the people who help take care of those living with the disease. Because eventually, people with Alzheimer's will need round-the-clock care.
They will need help eating, going to the bathroom, and getting dressed. Supervision to prevent them from wandering away from home or ensuring they don't fall when walking. And, as the Alzheimer's Association reports, most people with Alzheimer's live at home, leaving the brunt of the caregiving responsibilities to family members. In fact, it's estimated that last year over 17 billion hours of unpaid care was provided, a majority of it by female relatives.
That's a lot of hours. Particularly devoted to doing something that is often physically and emotionally exhausting. Imagine having to help someone get dressed who may be confused as to what's happening and resist every ounce of assistance you're giving them. They don't recognize you anymore or maybe repeat the same question over and over again. No wonder caregiver burnout is becoming such a huge issue.
Estimates suggest 20% of family caregivers show signs of depression, with rates potentially as high as 60%. Many caregivers ignore their own physical and mental health needs as they provide extensive care to their family member, putting them at risk for isolation, anxiety, as well as developing their own health problems.
The Alzheimer's Association reports that 11% of women and 5% of men had to stop working to care for a family member with Alzheimer's, and caregivers often have to experience grieving the loss not only their work lives, but other changes, like loss of hobbies, social connections, and the relationships they once shared. Unfortunately, there remains a tremendous amount of stigma around this disease and many experience a lack of support from employers, community organizations, and even medical professionals. To be blunt- that sucks.
Support is key. Helping caregivers recognize they don't have to do it alone and providing resources to help them take care of not only a loved one but also themselves is so important. For more information on Alzheimer’s care or memory care for your loved one, contact Spring Arbor.