Feature: Mind, Body, Soul

Alzheimer's Awareness: 5 Very Real Struggles Family Caregivers Face

Author: Holly Matheson
Published: October 29, 2012 at 5:41 am

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.

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