We are excited to continue our new series of blogs written by our CareGivers.com team. Nichole has been with CareGivers.com since the beginning of 2017 as a Home Care Advisor. Her background is in social work. She has worked in many sub fields, but her biggest passion is healthy relationships and being an advocate for survivors of abuse. In her free time she typically reads, writes and spends time with her two children. She also loves live music and have seen over 100 live shows!
Nearly 15 million Americans provide unpaid care to a person living with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia (Alzheimer’s Association 2011 Facts & Figures). So the term that you are not alone in taking care of your family member who may (or may not, yet) have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s can ring true for you with this particular statistic. However, what may feel more isolating and truly tough to manage are the feelings and different effects that Alzheimer’s may have on both their care takers and family members/friends that are involved.
In the beginning, it may be hard to either accept the diagnoses of a loved one with this disease, or it may be hard to pin point this and pin down a medical diagnoses. During which time, your family member may start to experience an array of symptoms, it may be really hard to accept/or understand what the right or supportive measure maybe to take in order to give the right kind of care to your loved one.
A symptom and effect on the family and/or care takers might be the daily role they had in the family; whether they cooked, cleaned or managed the household finances. This role may start to become increasingly harder for the family member to perform at the rate or ability they once did. Now might be a time to consider communication between other family members or friends to take over these roles. An introduction to home care options and care givers in the community may relieve some stress from these tasks and who to delegate them to. It’s not uncommon for those who need in home care to feel that they do not; some may truly be reluctant to let this sense of freedom go.
You might consider some ways you can incorporate who in these tasks still while still considering that hiring an aide or asking a friend/family member to stop by. This may help them in still maintaining their independence but also receive some much needed help or stress relief from those tasks. If the family member seems reluctant or unwilling to have someone come in to help, consider suggesting that you find an agency that supports flexibility. It might be really important to them that they choose the type of care they receive. Alternatively, some may feel relieved in their own right to give the task up as well if this is a cause of stress for them to keep up with as this can be very different and vast for each family.
Legally and financially, there may be a need to step in or have other support to help in these decisions as well (siblings, extended family, spouses, etc). Many people don’t really know where to start, as this can be really overwhelming to consider all the options. Often, if the loved one who is suffering from Alzheimer’s was the one to be financially in charge, this can bring some complications on where to start delegating tasks and decisions. There are community based organizations that can help with each. Not to mention, the medical costs that are brought upon the family as well when someone is suffering from a lifelong disease. It might benefit those who aren’t sure where to start quite yet to consider looking in to their loved ones health insurance, long term care policies or other insurance/financial policies (employer related, etc) to help offset the cost of expensive medical obligations. A great place to start is www.eldercare.gov as they offer health insurance counseling across communities locally.
And last, but not least, the emotional effects that Alzheimer’s can have on the family and/or care takers can be rippling, lasting for years and years. It is important to note that self-care can be really important to account for, but isn’t an answer that all families can act upon. Consider seeking out community based support groups or professional help if you or other family members feel depressed or anxious. Respite care can bring a great deal of relief during the time of care taking; making sure that you take breaks as needed from this is crucial. The stress of a loved one suffering from Alzheimer does take a toll emotionally and can make waves in the family. The lasting effects and aftermath can be devastating, anything from lasting physical effects on your health, to emotional and mental effects as well. Remember, you are not alone in feeling these effects. It’s crucial to seek out the right supportive services as you navigate this complex disease.