Are you providing unpaid care for a family member or loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s disease? If so, you are hardly alone – although it may seem that way at times. In the United States this year (2017) alone, the cost of caring for Alzheimer patients is expected to be about $260 billion. Family and other caregivers will give another 18 million hours of unpaid care valued at an additional $230 billion. Those unpaid caregivers are frequently overlooked; however, they often pay a high price for their unselfish act of compassion. Studies tell us that unpaid caregivers for those who have Alzheimer’s or other dementia are more likely to have higher levels of stress hormones, reduced immune function, new hypertension, and new heart disease than non-caregivers. With all of this in mind, the elder law attorneys at The Law Offices of Kobrick & Moccia offer tips for Alzheimer’s caregivers that will help keep your own health from deteriorating.
What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
If you are a new caregiver, you may not yet fully understand what your loved one is suffering from and what likely lies ahead for both of you. According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA), Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disorder that attacks the brain’s nerve cells, or neurons, resulting in loss of memory, deterioration of thinking and language skills, and behavioral changes. These neurons, which produce the brain chemical, or neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, break connections with other nerve cells and ultimately die. For example, short-term memory fails when Alzheimer’s disease first destroys nerve cells in the hippocampus, and language skills and judgment decline when neurons die in the cerebral cortex. Unlike many other diseases, such as AIDS, experts do not believe Alzheimer’s has a single cause. Instead, they believe the disease is multi-faceted with a number of factors influencing the development of the disease. The complexity of the disease makes finding a cure, and even effective treatment for those suffering from the disease, more difficult. While there are some medications on the market now that help slow the cognitive decline that is the hallmark of Alzheimer’s for some people, we are not yet close to finding a truly effective treatment regime, much less a cure. As the population of older Americans continues to increase, so do the number of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease as well as the number of caregivers providing care to them. Consider the following facts and figures released by the Alzheimer’s Association:
- More than 5 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s.
- Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S.
- 1 in 3 seniors will die suffering from the disease.
- Someone in the U.S. develops the disease every 66 seconds.
- Since 2000, deaths from Alzheimer’s have increased by 89 percent.
- Alzheimer’s kills more people than breast and prostate cancer combined.
- 15 million Americans provide unpaid care for people suffering from Alzheimer’s each year
- In 2016, unpaid caregivers provided over 18 billion hours of care, valued at over 230 billion dollars.
Tips for Caregivers
If you are providing care to a loved one with Alzheimer’s, it is imperative that you not take lightly the affect your caregiving will have on you and your life. To limit the negative impact that your selfless act of caring will have on your life and your family, consider the following tips:
- Set limits. You are human and, therefore, there are limits to what you can do by yourself.
- Schedule hours/days off. Everyone needs time to recharge. Schedule this time and stick to it because you won’t be any good to anyone if you are run down and exhausted.
- Find a support group. They are not difficult to find. Locate one and lean on the people in the group who are going through the same thing you are.
- Share the burden. Let other family members and/or friends help by taking over on your “day off” or by cooking dinner for you and your family, for example.
- Hire professional help when needed. Most Medicaid programs will cover in-home professional healthcare services for Alzheimer patients. Take advantage of this opportunity to get some much needed professional assistance.
- Accept the need for LTC when it becomes necessary. It is not a question of “if,” but of “when” long-term care will be needed. At some point, it will no longer be safe for your loved one to remain in your home so do not make the mistake of ignoring this eventuality. Start looking into your options early on so when the time comes everyone is prepared.
Contact New York Elder Law Attorneys
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have questions or concerns relating to elder law issues, contact the experienced elder law attorneys at the Law Offices of Kobrick & Moccia by calling 800-295-1917 to schedule your appointment.