“More than 41 million Americans provide regular care for an older adult, usually a relative, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of those, more than 15 million provide care for someone with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.”
That group of 15 million Americans was the subject of a November report from the University of Michigan’s National Poll on Healthy Aging. Consumer Reports notes in its recent article, “What It's Like Being a Dementia Caregiver Detailed in New Report,” that the results show being a caregiver to someone with dementia is an experience with great challenges and great rewards.
From the outside, it can look extremely stressful, the associate director of the Michigan poll said. However, many people also find rewards in the experience.
Although 78% of the caregivers who responded to the poll said the experience was “very or somewhat stressful” and two-thirds said caregiving “interferes with [the] ability to take care of themselves or their daily activities,” about 85% described caring for someone with dementia as “very or somewhat rewarding.”
The new report also found that, despite the stresses and concerns, only 27% of caregivers had taken advantage of caregiving resources like family therapy and support groups. Here are a few tips on how to make caring for someone with dementia more rewarding and less stressful.
- Educate yourself on dementia. Understanding the disease itself can help caregivers better appreciate the behaviors that are associated with it and to respond accordingly.
- Planning. Don’t wait until there is an emergency. That means estate-planning documents, like a power of attorney and healthcare directives should be signed well before someone begins having trouble speaking on his or her own behalf. Caregivers should also consider the types of additional future care that might be needed and plan for how to pay for that care. Talk with an elder law attorney to get the process started.
- Take care of yourself. It’s critical to take some time away from caregiving to do things you need to do, like run errands, sleep and prepare healthy meals. Caregiving for someone with dementia can often take place over many years, so the strain can add up. Your own self-care is also beneficial to the person for whom you’re caring—it will allow you to do more for a longer period of time.
Reference: Consumer Reports (November 3, 2017) “What It's Like Being a Dementia Caregiver Detailed in New Report”