Dementia Care: Who's worried about the caregiver?

Dementia Care: Who's worried about the caregiver?
A line came to me when writing this blog from the original Superman movie starring  Christopher Reeve.  The scene is Lois Lane falling from a very tall building--Superman swoops down and catches her before she hits the ground, saying "Don't worry, I've got you."  She looks down and asks "If you've got me, who's got you?"

Being a family caregiver for someone with dementia requires Superman-like dedication, stamina and strength, but the fact is that caregiver burnout is very real and dangerous--while they may not ask for it, most caregivers need help.  They've got the person with dementia, but who's got them? 

I attended the Hospice Foundation of America’s 22nd Annual Living with Grief Telecast The Longest Loss: Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia at the University of Utah college of nursing on April 24th.  It was a fantastic presentation. What was very interesting to me was the focus:  while certainly caring for and treating someone with dementia is extremely important, what is often overlooked and perhaps even more important is the care of the caregiver. 

I’ll discuss this point more in just a minute but first some key statistics and facts:
  • Dementia is the #2 killer of senior citizens, second only to cancer.
  • It is a very long and drawn out disease that our current healthcare system is not built for nor prepared to handle. 
  • The average person lives with dementia for 4.5 years and requires full time supervision for at least ½ of this time. 
  • Utah is predicted to have the highest increase in dementia diagnosis in the United States over the next 20 years (reasons were not explained). 

Caregivers are most often working middle aged women who in addition to their caregiver roles have substantial responsibilities to family, work, and friends.  Nearly ½ of caregivers are providing 20 hours or more per week to their loved one with dementia.  One responsibility that is often minimized or dismissed all together is the responsibility to herself—leading to caregiver burnout both mentally and physically. 
Some key takeaways from the conference:  Early diagnosis of the disease is critical because there are 4 types of dementia, all with unique behavioral changes, treatment options and caregiver requirements.  The biggest takeaway from the conference was to make respite care an integral part of the process from the beginning.  Dr. Troy Andersen with the University of Utah Center for Alzheimer's Care strongly recommends that the primary caregiver gets at least two 4 hour respite breaks per week and one 24 hour break per month—not to catch up on tasks and chores that have been put on the backburner, but to take care of herself, to unwind mentally, to grieve, and to maintain her other close relationships. 

Taking care of someone with dementia is not a sprint, it is a marathon and establishing a routine that includes rest periods will ensure the caregiver maintains strength and stamina throughout the ordeal. 

Caregivers often; due to a lack of awareness that respite opportunities are available, and/or a strong sense of duty and obligation; fail to take sufficient respite breaks until they are burned out and exhausted—it’s far too common where caregivers literally ‘work themselves to death,’ preceding the person with dementia in death due to exhaustion and fatigue.  The caregiver must take care of herself first.

Click Here for Info on Respite Care

Setting up regular respite breaks is as easy as making a phone call to Interim HealthCare.  We will meet with you and help come up with a solution that provides great care to your loved one with dementia, and provides the caregiver with an opportunity to rest and recharge.  Many of our caregivers have extensive experience and training with dementia. 

Call us anytime to set up your free consultation to discuss your respite care options.  You can now try respite care for free--all new clients will receive 2 hours of free respite care when you mention this blog article. 

You can reach us day or night at 801-401-3515 or fill out the short form on the right and we will reach out to you. 

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