As the American population ages, more and more people each year will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. Already, there are more than 5 million Americans suffering with Alzheimer’s. The care of these aging individuals falls mostly on the shoulders of their family, and some friends, through the winding maze of this disease, sometimes without ever finding the exit out. Eleven million people are providing unpaid care to support Alzheimer’s patients; care that takes an emotional, physical, and financial toll on family caregivers.
According to a study from New York University:
- Caregivers are twice as likely as non-caregivers to report physical and mental health complications.
- One in three caregivers use medication for caregiving-related health problems.
- Depression among caregivers is three times greater than for non-caregivers in their age group.
If the mind maze of Alzheimer’s wasn’t difficult enough, the stress and toll of caregivers is another layer of the puzzle on top of an already crooked path.
Another study compared the healing process of caregivers and non-caregivers. The two groups were given identical wounds. Caregiver’s wounds took up to 24% longer to heal than non-caregivers. Their immune systems were too stressed to function efficiently.
The stress pile on one caregiver can be daunting. Yet, they keep doing and doing and doing. They keep caring for others and ignoring their own needs. The mantra repeats, “I can do this one more day. Just one more day. And one more day.” Until, after years of self-neglect, caregivers discover the breast lump or have a heart attack or stroke. Then, the elders they are caring for need to go into a nursing home, because those crucial to their survival and health can’t be there for them. Worse, they are left alone to adjust without stable care they rely on because their caregivers are just too ill.
Not All Spouses Can Be Good Caregivers
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