If you are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, you know that the experience is both a gift and a challenge. On the one hand, it’s gratifying to know that what you do is making a meaningful difference in your loved one’s quality of life. On the other, providing this type of care can lead to burnout and feelings of sadness and isolation. That’s why it’s essential to find the support you need along the way.
You are not alone
Caregiving can be all-consuming and emotional. It’s important to recognize that thousands of other people, many of them in our community, are dealing with the same heartaches and struggles you are.
The Alzheimer’s Association recently published “2020 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures,” an annual report that revealed how the disease affects individuals, caregivers, the government and the nation’s healthcare system. Among the findings:
- More than five million Americans age 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s — a number expected to nearly triple by 2050.
- Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, and the fifth-leading cause of death for those ages 65 and older.
- In the state of South Carolina:
- About 95,000 people age 65 and over are living with Alzheimer’s disease. That number is expected to rise to 120,000 by 2025.
- About 318,000 people care for someone with Alzheimer’s, which translates to over 350 million hours of unpaid care.
Right now, there isn’t a cure for Alzheimer’s. Learning all you can about the disease can help you prepare for the future and have realistic expectations. Organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association and Alzheimers.net are great places to start.
The 2020 Facts & Figures Report highlights the unique stresses associated with caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. After all, these caregivers are not just meeting the person’s physical needs. They are dealing with a host of issues that can cause feelings of sadness and even anger. For instance, people with Alzheimer’s experience personality changes and may behave in upsetting, unexpected ways. They may not recognize close friends and family; they may not recognize the sacrifices you are making on their behalf.
You can’t manage these unique stresses alone. Consider building your support network in a few key ways:
- If family members or friends offer to help you, say yes and ask them to do something specific. They will appreciate knowing they are meeting a need.
- Confide in a friend, family member, pastor or therapist and tell them how you are doing. Even if that person can’t change your situation, talking can release pent-up feelings and help you gain perspective.
- Learn about resources in our community—your local Alzheimer’s Association chapter can help.
- Consider joining a caregiver support group.
Remember that taking care of yourself is not a luxury: it’s necessary! When you take a break from your caregiving role, even for a few hours, you will be better able to face the challenges ahead. Respite programs offer short- and longer-term breaks for people who are providing unpaid care for someone else. Roper St. Francis’s Lowcountry Senior Center (843-990-5555) and Waring Senior Center (843-402-1990) can direct you to resources in our area.
Participate in Alzheimer’s research
Researchers at the Roper St. Francis Research & Innovation Center are studying a variety of treatments for Alzheimer’s, including those for prevention, current memory impairment and disease-related behaviors. Volunteers can help move this research forward. Learn more and take a free memory assessment to evaluate memory concerns by visiting the Roper St. Francis Research & Innovation website.
Primary care physicians are also a valuable resource for people with Alzheimer’s and those who care for them. Find the right doctor for you by searching our online directory or by calling our physician referral line at (843) 402-CARE.