Monday, March 9, 2015

LET'S TALK CAREGIVING

Everyone is a caregiver in one way or another and at some time or another.  If you're a young family, you are giving care to your children while you raise them.  Many people are raising grandchildren today, these people are caregivers.  If you have a neighbor that you keep an eye on, in a real way you are a caregiver.  If you have a spouse with an illness, you become their caregiver.  If you're an older adult, chances are that at some point you will become a caregiver to one or both of your parents.  

With the exception of raising kids, most caregiving is over within a set length of time.  Illnesses generally do not last for years, so caregivers go back to their "real" lives sooner rather than later.  

These episodes of caregiving are part of what being a family is all about.  You love someone and when they are in need, you give care to them. 

Now let's talk about Alzheimer's caregiving.

Like most other types of caregiving, the need your loved one has may sneak up on you, like it did for me.  Although I saw it coming, when the actual time came for me to step in, it was with a sudden and painful jolt to my life.

The caregiving of my parents has consumed my life in almost every way.  How I interact with friends has changed.  Involvement in my community has been severely limited. Extended family interactions have gone from limited to strained to limited again.  It cost me my long time job. And it's put a mental and physical strain on me that I was in no way prepared to handle.

But, enough about me.  Let's talk generalities.  Because there are millions of people like me out there doing the best they can to handle the day to day caregiving to their loved ones with Alzheimer's.  And there is a huge cost to that caregiving.

Here are some numbers for you to contemplate.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, in 2013, 15.5 million family and friends provided 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care to those with Alzheimer's and other dementias – care valued at $220.2 billion, which is nearly eight times the total revenue of McDonald's in 2012.


Let's just stop here and think about that for a moment.  EIGHT TIMES THE REVENUE OF McDONALDS.  And guess what?  People that work at MickyD's are paid slightly more than minimum wage.  Caregivers do all that work for NO WAGE AT ALL.

17.7 BILLION HOURS OF CARE FOR NO WAGE AT ALL.

Caregiving for parents with Alzheimer's is a 24/7 proposition.  Down time is almost nonexistent, even if you aren't actively "doing something" to give care, your mind is working frantically thinking about all the things you need to accomplish and are now responsible for.

Someone in my support group put it this way - it's like having two bodies with one brain.  You have the responsibility of dealing with your own needs, plus doing the thinking for your loved one who can no longer think for themselves.









And how about this ladies...More than 60 percent of Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers are women.  The lucky caregivers are those that have the help and support of a spouse or child that will lend a hand where needed. 

All caregivers of people with Alzheimer's – both women and men – face a devastating toll. Due to the physical and emotional burden of caregiving, Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers had $9.3 billion in additional health care costs of their own in 2013. More than one-third report symptoms of depression.

AND IT WILL ONLY GET MORE WIDE SPREAD

The numbers are there...by 2025, nearly half the people over age 80 will develop Alzheimer's.  Every one of those people will need at least one full-time caregiver.  

Monetarily this is a daunting thought.  The emotional and physical demands will be just as devastating.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

Immediately, if you know someone who is a caregiver of someone with Alzheimer's, find a way to give them support.  Prepare and take them a meal.  Ask if you can sit with their loved one while they go get their hair done or do some personal errands.  Offer to do their grocery shopping.  Sometimes the best offer is to simply go visit and offer moral support.

One a higher level, we can all work to fund research to find a cure for Alzheimer's.  Tell your government officials that you want them to do all they can to support the research with our tax dollars.  Donate to the Alzheimer's Association's funds for research into finding a cure.

If we can find a cure, the need for caregiving would disappear.  How wonderful would that be?

No comments:

Post a Comment