Relief for Alzheimer’s Family Caregivers

February 24, 2014
The ravages of Alzheimer’s disease for patients are well-known. Less attention, however, is often paid to the effects of Alzheimer’s on family members — and in particular, family caregivers.Recent estimates show that about 15 million Americans currently spend some portion of their day caring for family members with Alzheimer’s. In total, they provide about 17 billion hours of care every year, with the most involved family members devoting nearly half of their time every day to daily care of the affected person.

The long-term effects of caregiving

These loving and devoted family members, like all the rest of us, have just 24 hours in each day. You would think that spending so much time helping an Alzheimer’s patient with daily tasks might take a toll on other areas of their lives — and it does.

A recent survey by the Caregiver Action Network reveals that most family caregivers have full or part-time jobs in addition to their duties at home. A large proportion of them skip work or school to provide in-home care. They also neglect other areas of their lives, including other family members and even their own health.

Despite differences in gender, age, and ethnicity, these caregivers reported the same long-term effects on their own lives. They experienced a great deal  of stress — about their growing inability to communicate with their loved ones, about their growing sense of isolation and loneliness, and about their own health and their concurrent ability to continue providing the needed level of care.

Caregivers don’t have to go it alone

There’s no way to ease the tragic consequences of Alzheimer’s Disease — at least not yet. But there is a way to reduce the stress that caregiving places on families. It’s called home health care, and it works.

Home care provides more than assistance to Alzheimer’s patients. It provides a much needed respite for family caregivers. Respite care can be as minimal as a few hours each week, or as much as a few hours each day. Most commonly, respite care begins at a minimal level and increases as the patient’s needs become greater.

It would be impossible to put a dollar amount on the value of respite care. Once again there’s time to shop, to visit with friends and family, to attend church, or simply read a book. Home care aides help caregivers and patients to retain a feeling of dignity around bathing and toileting. Certified medical staff provides a level of security for handling medications and monitoring equipment.

Most importantly, the family caregiver is released from the constant pressure of supporting the Alzheimer’s patient. A small bit of freedom to be sure — but enough that caregivers are able to once again take some joy in the company of their affected loved one.

Alzheimer’s disease is a tragic, destructive disease that weighs down entire families. There’s no reason to shoulder this burden alone. Once a month, once a week, or once a day, allow a caring professional into your home to lighten your load. You’ll be a stronger, happier person — and provide better support for your loved one as well.

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