November is National Family Caregivers Month. There are more than 11 million family caregivers in the U.S and nearly half of these caregivers provide help to someone with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Here in Oklahoma, there are 135,000 caregivers who provided 164 million hours of unpaid care valued at more than $2.6 billion.
Caregivers for Alzheimer’s and dementia face unique challenges. Here are 5 reasons why Alzheimer’s caregiving is challenging:
1. Caregiving for someone with memory loss is exceptionally demanding.
• Alzheimer’s caregivers are often managing multiple conditions, not only memory loss, but: -Long-term physical conditions, including gradual loss of mobility -Emotional issues -Behavioral and personality changes
2. Caregiving tasks are often more intensive and burdensome
• Caregivers of people with dementia report providing 27 hours more care per month on average (92 hours versus 65 hours) than caregivers of people without dementia.
• Among all older adults with dementia, 77% receive assistance with at least one activity of daily living (ADL), such as bathing and dressing, in contrast to only 20% of older adults without dementia.
3. Alzheimer’s caregivers often have to provide care over a longer period of time
• Average life expectancy following a diagnosis is 4-8 years, but can be as long as 20.
• During the course of the disease caregiving tasks escalate and become more intensive
4. Alzheimer’s caregivers report greater stress and personal health problems
• 59 % of Alzheimer’s caregivers report their emotional stress as high or very high. (Non-Alzheimer’s caregivers – 41 %)
• 35 % report declining health because of caregiving (Non-Alz caregivers – 19 %)
• A recent national poll found 27 % of caregivers for people with dementia delayed or did not do things they should for their own health.
5. Impact on Employment
• 57% reported sometimes needing to go in late or leave early due to care responsibilities,
• 18% reduced their work hours
• 9% gave up working entirely.
“Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is overwhelming for many caregivers here in Oklahoma,” remarked Sandi Pellow, Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Association Oklahoma Chapter. “However, there is support and resources available including local support.”