The Toll of Alzheimer’s On Caregivers
Caring for Alzheimer’s patients is never easy; even if you’re professional caregiver, you’re still being underpaid for performing a very detailed and stressful job. It gets worse when you’re a relative of the diseased person. It’s bad enough to witness the slow descent into madness of someone you know and love, without having to account for impact that taking care of them has on your physical and emotional health, and on your personal and professional life. The worst part is that patients and their families may have to live with the ramifications and Alzheimer’s for up to 20 years in some cases.
Even the 4 to 8 years that Alzheimer’s patients live on average after diagnosis are enough to break a caregiver, to the point where they feel they would all be better off if it was all over soon. This is a stark contrast with the way many of them start out as caregivers. Although they are untrained and unprepared, they are also enthusiastic, encouraging their sick relative (who is often a spouse) to write letters and tape videos when they still have control of their faculties, so their kids will remember them like they used to be.
As those faculties start to go, it becomes frustrating to watch a formerly intelligent, capable person struggle with the simplest of daily tasks. That’s the reason that the 2013 Word Alzheimer’s report stresses the importance of early diagnosis, so that the patient is able to make decisions regarding their care while they still can. Individualized choices are essential for successful care, because each Alzheimer’s patient is different, and every family deals with the situation in their very own way. Nothing can really stop the slow grind of this disease, but its shock may be lessened.
By the year 2050, 10% of the population of developed countries is expected to be over 80 years old. Many of those people will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. In the United States alone, caring for those people will cost more than one trillion dollars. The numbers are astonishing, and it would be easy to picture this mental condition as a faceless monster. However, we must not forget that these are actual people we’re talking about, people who not long ago were productive members of the society which now has to support them. As such, and as the report strongly suggests, governments need to pay more attention and allot more resources to improve the quality of life of these people.