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Relief for Alzheimer's Caregivers

- Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Alzheimer’s care facilities for people with Alzheimer's disease can give spouses and other family caregivers a much needed source of stress relief, a new study suggests.

Such care facilities offer people with dementia a chance to socialize and take part in activities that stimulate their minds. The programs can also give spouses, children and other caregivers a break.

Intuitively, that should ease some of caregivers' daily stress.  A study measured stress levels of 173 family caregivers in four U.S. states who used Alzheimer’s care facilities for their relative with dementia.

Through phone interviews, they found caregivers were less stressed. And when stressors did crop up -- such as problems at work -- they took less of an emotional toll.

"I think this reinforces the fact that caregivers can't do this all on their own," said Carol Steinberg, president of the Alzheimer's Foundation of America. "People need relief."

Study author Steven Zarit agreed. "There's a famous book [on caregiving] called 'The 36-Hour Day,' and I think that perfectly describes it," he said. "Caregivers need help. When they get a break, it's a way to restore."

There are other types of "respite services," for the early stages of Alzheimer’s, such as home health aides, but finances are still an obstacle. Home-based help is even more expensive. Caregivers may also be able to find local groups that send a volunteer to their home to give them a needed break -- though that typically amounts to a few hours of help a week, or every other week.

Caregivers can find help through a caregiver support groups designed specifically for spouses. A good support group is helpful not only because the other group members know what you're going through, but because they can also share practical advice.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, and experts predict that with the aging Baby Boomer generation, the number of Americans with Alzheimer's could triple by 2050, to nearly 14 million.

For more information on Alzheimer’s care, contact Spring Arbor.

WebMD