November is National Family Caregiver's Month. Caregivers of people with Alzheimer's, or other forms of dementia, face many challenges as the person they used to know changes. The job can be 24/7, depending on the patient's needs. The job can be isolating, as friends and even family, may drift away. Who are these dementia caregivers and how can they get the respite that they need?
Facts About Caregivers of Patient's with Dementia
- Caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias provided an estimated 17.9 billion hours of informal - or unpaid - assistance last year. That is eight time the total revenue of McDonald's in 2013.
- 85% of care provided to older adults in America is done by family members
- Two-thirds of dementia caregivers are women. 34% of these are over the age of 65.
- 23% of these dementia caregiving homes also have children under 18 living there
- 74% of dementia caregivers reported being 'somewhat concerned' or 'very concerned' about maintaining their own health
Self-Care Tips for Alzheimer Caregivers
- Seek support from other caregivers! Did you read the numbers above? Dementia caregivers are far from alone.
- When someone asks if or how they can help, swallow your pride and say "yes". Then give them a specific task to do - for example, give a list of needed groceries or a date and time frame they could visit or even stay with the person while you leave.
- If you have siblings, decide as a group who can take on which responsibilities, such as managing finances, managing medications, doctor's appointments and errands. Find ways to communicate to keep each other in the loop, like a weekly or monthly phone call.
- Knowledge is power. Learning more about dementia and ways for you, as a caregiver, to adapt to the changing person, can make the caregiving job easier. See below for resources.
- Schedule times you can get away. Find a family member, friend, neighbor, church or community volunteer, hired help, or adult day program. There is a way to take a break - and it is essential to take a break. Find what will work for you.
Resources for Caregiving of People with Alzheimer's or Other Dementia
- Private support group for people with dementia and caregivers on Facebook
- Traditional support groups with the Alzheimer's Association or more informal, social support groups with Memory Cafe's
- Helping people with dementia to keep doing things and staying active
Statistics taken from Alzheimer's Association Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures 2015.