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Caregiving & Your Health: When a Loved One Has Alzheimer’s Disease

According to a recent study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and the AARP, over 44 million Americans are providing unpaid care to an adult, and this number is only going to increase as the baby boomer generation ages.  The Alzheimer’s Association reports that a staggering one in eight Americans age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s disease.  Becoming a caregiver can take a physical and emotional toll regardless of who you are caring for, but studies show that caring for a person with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia can be even more taxing.

A recent report by the Alzheimer’s Association shows that family caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients and those with other forms of dementia often provide care for a longer period of time than other caregivers.  They report higher feelings of emotional stress and depression than people providing care for loved ones with other diseases.  Providing unpaid care for such a long period of time often has a detrimental effect on the caregiver’s personal finances, both in the form of time away from paid work and having to use retirement or other savings to be able to provide care.

Given the health risks that come with caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, it is critical to take care of your own mental and physical wellbeing.  Staying physically active, eating and sleeping well, and making time for yourself can help you better cope with the demands of caregiving.  Consider bringing in outside help so you can continue to work full or part-time. If you are providing unpaid care full-time, using in-home care once or twice a week will give you a much-needed break so you can clear your head and ultimately be a better caregiver for your loved one.