According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are approximately 5.3 million people in the U.S. who have Alzheimer’s and nearly 11 million unpaid caregivers involved in their daily care. It is the 7th leading cause of death, and it costs us around 172 billion dollars each year. While there are a number of causes of dementia, Alzheimer’s is the most common type, accounting for 60-80% of cases. In advanced Alzheimer’s, people need help with bathing, dressing, using the bathroom, eating, and other daily activities. Those in the final stages of the disease lose their ability to communicate, fail to recognize loved ones, and become bed-bound and are reliant on 24/7 care. Their needs can become an almost unbearable burden for their caregivers.
“This is where family members and other unpaid caregivers begin to come to the attention of health and mental health professionals,” says Leo Christie, PhD, CEO of Professional Development Resources. “While most caregivers are proud of the help they provide, many of them also experience very high levels of stress and depression associated with their caregiving roles. One study showed that family members who provided care to a person with dementia spent at least 46 hours per week assisting the person in the last year before the person’s death. The majority felt they were on duty 24 hours a day. Our goal is to provide continuing education (CE) courses that give professionals the tools they need to help the helpers.”
Negative health effects can run the gamut from stress to heart disease. Research has indicated that caregivers – many of whom are elderly themselves – may show high levels of stress hormones, reduced immune function, new hypertension, and new coronary heart disease. In one study, 24% of spouse caregivers had at least one ER visit or hospitalization in the previous six months. Mental health effects include severe stress and depression. There are also social and economic impacts, such as isolation and reduced employment.
“Our main task is to convince caregivers that it’s OK to ask for help and take time for themselves,” adds Christie. “They feel that they should be able to do everything themselves, that it’s not all right to leave the person with someone else, that no one will help even if they ask, or that they don’t have the money to pay someone to watch the person for an hour or two. It all adds up to burnout.”
Among the Alzheimer’s courses offered by Professional Development Resources are:
- Caring for a Person with Alzheimer’s Disease
- Alzheimer’s – Unraveling the Mystery
- Alzheimer’s Disease – Overview
- Alzheimer’s Disease: Nutrition Intervention Strategies
- Alzheimer’s Disease & Related Disorders (ADRD)
- A Pocket Guide for the Alzheimer’s Caregiver (alzheimersspeaks.wordpress.com)
- Anger: A normal emotion for Alzheimer’s caregivers (mayoclinic.com)
- Alzheimer’s caregivers can love more by caring less (mayoclinic.com)
- Stress Drives More Families to Senior Care Services (prweb.com)
- Alzheimer’s Caregivers: The Sandwich Generation (webmd.com)