Alzheimers Awareness: 5 Very Real Struggles Family Caregivers Face – Technorati

By Holly Matheson

In addition to being Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, November is also National Family Caregivers Month and a time to pay respects to the estimated 65 million family members in the United States currently caring for a loved one with serious health problems.

According to recent statistics, an estimated 1 in 8 older adults is currently living with Alzheimer’s. In fact, the memory-deteriorating disease is so prevalent that someone in America will develop the disease every 68 seconds. With that said, it’s reasonable to believe that of those 65 million family caregivers, a great many of them are caring for loved ones who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and that number is growing almost literally by the minute.

Understandably, the everyday difficulties that family caregivers face can take a toll. The weight of responsibility can be quite overwhelming, but without a strong support group, those responsibilities can also lead to a variety of health and relationship problems over time.

Depression, Stress and Anger

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is not easy under any circumstances, but the role is made that much more difficult and emotional when the caregiver is a family member. The diagnosis is both shocking and frightening, but when combined with the struggles of communicating with a loved one who has dementia and watching their memories essentially be washed away, family caregivers are often left with a most helpless feeling that takes a powerful emotional toll and can often lead to depression, anxiety, chronic stress and anger.

“For me, it’s like seeing my husband, someone that I love, he’s in quicksand, and I can see the fear in his eyes,” said Laura Jones when her husband Jay was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. “I can’t reach him. I can’t get there. I see him slip a little further, and I can’t get to him.”

Financial Struggles

In addition to the roller coaster of emotions that come with being a family caregiver of a loved one with dementia, there are also financial struggles. An estimated 15 million caregivers are unpaid, of which 80 percent are family members and 60 percent of them are women. For late stage Alzheimer’s patients, around-the-clock care is often needed and family members may often relocate, work less or stop working entirely in order to provide adequate care to loved ones. That said, it isn’t uncommon for caregivers to experience heightened levels of stress due to financial problems.

Withdrawal from Friends and Family

Providing full time care for someone with Alzheimer’s can take a dramatic toll on a person’s social life and even on their home life. Caregivers may feel as though they don’t want to burden non-caregiving friends or simply feel as if they do not have enough time to make room for healthy social interactions. Relationships with spouses and children can also take a hit as caregivers spend more time away from home visiting with doctors, filling prescriptions and administering medication, even shopping and preparing meals for the care-recipient.

Difficulty Coping During Holidays and Birthdays

Holidays, birthdays and other special occasions are frequently difficult for caregivers to cope with. There is an imbalance between nostalgia for the past and the difficulty of the present that may manifest itself in the form of exhaustion, isolation and sometimes distancing oneself from these occasions entirely.

Marriage Struggles

In the case of a spouse with Alzheimer’s, caregivers may experience difficulties with the absence of intimacy and closeness. Sex is often a way of finding comfort and connecting during times of stress, fear and grief, but caregivers may find it difficult to be intimate when their role is to provide full-time care for a spouse or may even feel guilty for initiating intimacy or seeking it outside of the marriage. This mix of emotions, fear and uncertainty can be incredibly overwhelming and sometimes destructive to a marriage.

Although the weight of caring for a loved one with dementia can be quite hard to bear, it is important for caregivers to remember that there is comfort in having a strong and stable support group, being well-educated, and rewarding themselves frequently with uninterrupted breaks.

~ by Butch on October 31, 2012.

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