Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Caring for Alzheimer Caregivers

A study released earlier this month by the nonprofit RAND Corp. says Alzheimer’s is the most expensive illness in the country, topping cancer and heart disease and costing families and society $157 billion to $215 billion a year.

The study said the biggest cost isn’t medication but rather the hands-on care provided by family members, home health aides and nursing home staff.

The majority of Alzheimer’s patients live with family members or even alone in senior housing. Unfortunately, there are a lot of spouses providing a lot of care.

The RAND report identified 4.1 million Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia.

This population is growing so dramatically, it’s a problem that’s going to overwhelm us if we don’t deal with it.

Lost caregiver wages and replacement costs for unpaid caregivers come to about $41,000 to $56,000 per year per patient, according to the report.

For the first time, there’s a realization there are costs associated that could be reduced with proper care and support.

Programs and Alzheimer’s care facilities help keep costs down by preventing caregiver burnout and delaying institutionalization, said Carol Steinberg, acting CEO of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.

Dealing with loved ones with cognitive impairment can “really wear the caregiver down,” she said.

Alzheimer’s care facilities is a great respite for caregivers and a social program for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

But too often, Alzheimer’s patients reject the idea. It is important for caregivers to learn how to work around their charges’ fears and resistance.

Studies show that caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s have shorter life spans than other caregivers, said George Vradenburg, co-founder of USAgainstAlzheimers, a nonprofit organization advocating Alzheimer’s treatment.  “It’s just exhausting.”

For information on Alzheimer’s care, contact Spring Arbor.