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Caregiving and Alzheimer’s – Part 1

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caregiver and alzheimers patientBy the time we ring out 2013 and welcome in the new year, caregivers to adults with Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia will have logged nearly 20 billion hours of unpaid care time this year. We all have heard the other statistics on the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, the cost of care in dollars and more, but we sometimes overlook the toll this disease takes on the loved ones who care for those with failing mental faculties. This is the first in a two-part series I will share on the topic of the 15+ million non-professional caregivers who help Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers with activities of daily living like bathing, feeding or dressing.
If we were to place a dollar value on this unpaid care, it would approximate about half the annual revenue of Wal-Mart and approximately eight times the total 2013 sales of McDonalds. Who are these caregivers? Well, the majority are women, about 62% of the caregivers according to some surveys. About one in four is over age 65, and 70 percent are married to the person to whom they give this care. The care from these individuals is not remarkable in what they do to assist with the Activities of Daily Living, but their care is at once more extensive and more intensive. Where the difference is more stark is when the incidence of the care is twice the rate of other caregivers to loved ones who do not suffer from dementia…and more intense. For instance, 31 percent of caregivers to Alzheimer’s or dementia patients help with toileting or diapers, only about 16 percent of other caregivers help with this. And 31 percent of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers help with feeding compared with only 14 percent of other caregivers who help feed their loved ones.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s caregivers are also in it for a longer haul. About one in four will spend less than a year as a caregiver compared with more than one-third of caregivers to non-dementia loved ones who spend under a year. Yet, more than two in five caregivers to Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers will spend one to five years in this role, compared with one in three caregivers to other types of loved ones. This gap closes a bit with longer durations of care, but greater proportions of caregivers to Alzheimer’s and dementia patients care for their loved ones 4 and more years.
But how stressful is the caregiving of these two different groups of caregivers? There is a bit of a trade-off between emotioal stress and physical demands of the caregiving. Caregivers to Alzheimer’s or dementia loved ones report about fifty percent more stress emotionally in the caregiving. But the physical stress of caregivers to other types of loved ones report about one-third more physical stress in their caregiving activities.
Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to info@creativecaremanagement.com.

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