There are roughly 5.4 million known cases of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in the United States, and there may be as many as 24 million across the globe. The prevalence of this disease not only affects the patient, but also their caregivers and family members. Because this disease causes brain cells to slowly deteriorate, family members and caregivers are vital to anyone who has AD. Family members often carry a heavy load when their loved one has Alzheimer's.
The disease imposes a huge financial burden on families. According to one estimate, the costs associated with caring for AD patients worldwide was a staggering $604 billion in 2010, and it’s predicted to be $1,117 billion by 2030. Insurance will help combat individual costs, but for the majority of situations, it will not cover everything; and out-of-pocket expenses can be significant.
Families often devote a substantial amount of time to caring for their loved one with AD. Families caring for someone with mild AD spend about 2 hours per day caring for their loved one, and that commitment only increases as the disease progresses. Some care for their loved one as much as 43 hours per week, and family members carry the brunt of this responsibility. This time commitment may also mean that the caregiver is no longer able to work outside the home or they must invest in a caregiver to help while they work. When a significant amount of time must be devoted to their loved one, other responsibilities may be ignored.
Perhaps the most difficult part of having a family member with AD is that their memory will eventually fade to the point that they may not be able to recognize even close family members. Sons and daughters may be mistaken for older relatives, and grandchildren may be completely forgotten. It is extremely difficult to watch a loved one fail to recognize someone who cares about them.
When families care for their loved one with Alzheimer's, it will likely be extremely difficult to watch them regress to the point of being dependent on other people, especially if they were strong and independent prior to the disease. For many caregivers. the stress of caring for someone else, the financial burden, and the emotional effects can cause severe psychological symptoms like depression and anxiety. Family members may be so concerned about caring for their loved one that they forget to care for themselves, which is detrimental to everyone.
Family members are strongly encouraged to ask for help when they need it. Support groups and learning coping methods will significantly improve the situation. Even just having face-to-face conversations with a healthcare professional can be helpful. To find out more, visit http://www.palmbeachneurological.com/.
Cole, J.C., et al. Impact of Alzheimer’s Disease on Caregiver Questionnaire: internal consistency, convergent validity, and test-retest reliability of a new measure for assessing caregiver burden. Health Qual. Life Outcomes. 2014; Sept.;12: 114. doi. 10.1186s/12955-014-0114-3.
Beinart, N. Caregiver Burden and Psychoeducational Interventions in Alzheimer’s Disease: A Review. Dement. Geriatr. Cogn. Dis. Extra. 2012; Jan.-Dec.:2(1): 638-648. doi. 10.1159/000345777.
Siemens, I. Communicating with families of dementia patients: Practical guide for relieving caregiver stress. Canadian Family Physician. 2011; July:57(7): 801-802.
561-694-1010 – Dr. Tuchman has maintained a private practice in Neurology in Palm Beach Gardens since 1983. His special areas of interest are memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkins