Families who help care for a person with dementia are the unsung heroes in the global fight against dementia. They carry out the majority of care-related tasks, often unpaid, and often for several years.
If you know someone who is a carer, lend a helping hand! Start with 30 minutes of easy chatting, help them with laundry, offer to wash the dishes or to bring over dinner, clean out their car, or just let them know that they can call on you for support – ANYTHING will help 🙂 You can also read more tips in my post on Helping the Helpers.
As AARP says;
The unpaid contributions of family caregivers to the person being cared for and to society are huge. Yet the health risks and financial hardships that may accompany the caregiving role are substantial and well documented. Thus, there is strong interest in improving family caregivers’ experiences and outcomes, which may include helping to delay or prevent nursing home use or unnecessary hospitalizations of the care recipient.
In 2014, friends and family of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias provided an estimated 17.9 billion hours of unpaid care, a contribution to the nation valued at $217.7 billion. This is approximately 46 percent of the net value of Walmart sales in 2013 and nearly eight times the total revenue of McDonald’s in 2013.
Alzheimer’s takes a devastating toll on caregivers. Nearly 60 percent of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high; about 40 percent suffer from depression. Due to the physical and emotional toll of caregiving, Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers had $9.7 billion in additional health care costs of their own in 2014.
Caregivers had a 23 percent higher level of stress hormones and a 15 percent lower level of antibody responses than non-caregivers. Over time, elevated stress hormones can lead to high blood pressure and glucose levels, increasing the risk of hypertension and diabetes. Poorer immune response can make people more vulnerable to infections such as the flu, even after a flu shot.
The work of caregiving has a substantial impact on health and well-being. An extensive body of research finds that providing care to a chronically ill family member or close friend can have profound negative effects on the caregiver’s own physical and psychological health, increase social isolation, and adversely impact quality of life and well-being. More than two out of three (69 percent) family caregivers responding to an online survey said that caring for a loved one was their number one source of stress, ahead of the economic downturn and other family health problems. Caregivers commonly experience emotional strain and mental health problems, especially depression. A review of studies suggests that between 40 and 70 percent of family caregivers of older adults have clinically significant symptoms of depression, with about onefourth to one-half of these caregivers meeting the diagnostic criteria for major depression. Research has shown that caregivers have poorer physical health than noncaregivers, with an estimated 17 to 35 percent of family caregivers perceiving their health as fair to poor. Family caregivers face chronic health problems of their own and health risks, such as heart disease, hypertension, stroke, poorer immune function, slower wound healing, impaired selfcare, sleep problems and fatigue, increased use of psychotropic drugs, and even death among highly stressed spouse caregivers. Caring for a spouse with a dementing illness like Alzheimer’s disease is particularly stressful and is associated with depression, physical health problems, sleep problems, social isolation, mortality, and a greater risk of the caregiver’s developing dementia. Caregivers of people with dementia were more likely to have an emergency department visit or hospitalization in the previous six months if they were depressed or were taking care of individuals with heavy care needs. Because family caregivers often do not have free time for themselves or to be with others, they frequently experience social isolation from a loss of social contacts or from the difficulties in trying to identify and navigate practical community services to help them in their caregiving. More than half (52 percent) of family caregivers say that their caregiving responsibilities take them away from friends or family members. Caregivers who experience social isolation also experience high levels of caregiver stress.
Family caregivers are an essential part of the workforce to maintain the health care and long-term services and support systems for the growing numbers of people with complex chronic care needs. Family caregiving has been shown to help delay or prevent the use of nursing home care. There is also growing recognition of the value of family members to the delivery of health care, and the ways families influence health care decisions, treatment, and outcomes