Are you taking care of an aging parent or parents? Feeling somewhat stressed and overwhelmed? Not sure where to turn to for help? Well you are NOT alone! According to the Alzheimer’s Association, approximately 83% of the help provided to older adults in the United States comes from family members, friends or unpaid caregivers. Nearly half of all caregivers who provide help to older adults do so for someone with Alzheimer’s or another dementia.
As a Board-certified Ob/Gyn and founder of Amazing over 40, I can relate from both a professional and personal standpoint. Every day, women walk through my door, feeling overwhelmed, depressed and burnt out from the stressors of taking care of both a parent with a health condition including dementia, managing the family obligations and taking care of their children. This stress can be on emotional, physical, mental and also financial levels.
Personally, I have had the stress of taking care of my mother, who was diagnosed with dementia in late 2015. Although I was not the primary caregiver, I made the 6-7 hour drive one weekend/month to Mammoth Lakes, Ca. while managing the remainder of my mother’s care via daily or weekly phone correspondence. Often times, the phone calls from the caregivers created more stress than actually visiting her because I had to manage her care from afar – being physically there was easier because I could more easily assess the situation. Then when my mother was too physically and mentally ill to stay at home, I moved her closer to me to a memory care facility in San Diego where I live. More recently, I moved her into a nearby Board & Care facility which provides better attentive and individualized care.
To read more about Alzheimer’s and my mother’s journey with dementia, please visit my blog posts at, www.drdianahoppe.com
During these past 4-5 years, I can honestly say that I was extremely stressed and I was juggling far too many plates – hoping none would drop- my private OB/GYN practice, creating the Amazing over 40 website/content, writing weekly blog posts and doing weekly Facetime live events. Yes, one could say I was a bit crazy. But only when one is forced to slow down, does one realize the insanity of one’s behavior.
Before I delve into the stress associated with care giving for someone with dementia, let me share some alarming stats with you.
According to the 2019 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.
Approximately, 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. By 2050, that number is projected to surge to nearly 14 million.
More than 16 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with AD or other dementia's.
These caregivers provided an estimated 18.5 billion hours valued at nearly $234 Billion.
In 2019, the national cost for dementia treatment is projected to be $290 billion. By 2050, these costs could rise as high as $1.1 trillion.
One in 3 seniors will die with Alzheimer’s or another dementia – killing more than breast cancer and prostate cancer patients combined.
Pretty startling statistics, right?
What about caregivers for people with dementia?
Approximately two-thirds of dementia caregivers are women, and over one-third are daughters. Of those providing care to someone with dementia for more than 5 years, 63 percent are women and many of these women experience higher levels of burden, impaired mood, depression and impaired health than men. Evidence suggests that these differences arise because female caregivers tend to spend more time care giving, assume more care giving tasks, and care for someone with more cognitive, functional and/or behavioral problems.
Stress is a silent killer, especially with caregivers. Several studies have shown that under certain circumstances some Alzheimer’s caregivers were more likely to have elevated bio-markers of cardiovascular disease and impaired kidney function risk than those who were not caregivers. Personally, I believe that my recent diagnosis of Stage 1 Breast Cancer in 2018 was largely due to the stress that I had been under for the previous 3-5 years.
Rather than waiting for a “wake-up” call such as cancer to alert you to self-care, I hope the following 7 tips will help reduce your stress and achieve some life balance. I believe that there can never be true “balance” just the attempt to achieve it.
Here is an incredibly valuable link for caregivers of loved ones with dementia – including resources, support groups and other health tips.