November is National Alzheimer’s Disease and Awareness Month. It is also National Family Caregivers Month. This story reflects on both and emphasizes our counseling and support of Caregivers.
Memory Matters Staff, and Volunteers will be present throughout the month of November at several Hilton Island and Bluffton Churches where the local clergy have kindly agreed to celebrate the National event. They will hold a 66 second moment of silence to correspond to the fact that every 66 seconds someone in America is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s – the 6th leading cause of death in the USA. The clergy will read prayers of comfort for the families living with the disease and display Memory Matters “You Are Not Alone” flyers in the common areas or Church bulletins. Here are the prayers:
Loving God, Healer and Comforter,
We pray for those living with Alzheimer’s disease. In the days of changing memory and memory loss, be with them. Bless their families who surround them with love and patience. Give them peace, security and safety as within their dwelling places. Even in the moments of uncertainty, we ask for Your divine guidance and strength. Be the balm of Gilead to heal all their infirmities. Amen.
We pray today for the selfless people who care for men and women living with Alzheimer’s. You know how difficult the work and how heavy the burden is. We ask You for strength in their weakest and most vulnerable moments. Continue to give them assurance that You are wrapping Your loving arms around them as they care for those who they’ve loved or so long who may not be able to reciprocate the same love. Fill their hearts with Your goodness and comfort and their souls with love. Help them find ways to rest and take care of themselves. Give them peace in times of doubt, calm every fear and dry their eyes when tears begin to fall. Remind them that You are the ultimate Father who does all things well. Amen.
The eyes of Volunteer Mike often look beyond the Memory Matters organization and pause to study relevant National and International news about Alzheimer’s research, towards the cure we all pray for, and to learn about creative ideas and solutions that can transform the life of a dementia sufferer and, by association, the life of that person’s Caregiver.
I am fortunate to live in a country where you can freely research information through the internet, and the act of simply writing and publishing this blog tends to attract similar minded interested parties. For example, I recently added a blog to my site’s reading list from an amazing young man in Australia who suffered a traumatic brain injury and in learning to live with the consequences he has become a source of comfort and inspiration to others. Scott approached me recently and I have enjoyed reading his words. You can find Scott B Harris by clicking on my link or going to the “Reader” on my site. It’s an important part of Memory Matters work to be cognizant of the people we care for in our day programs who have experienced traumatic brain injury and how to relate to and help their Caregivers.
Without being immodest with regard to Memory Matters past achievements and our current programs, I admit to being heartened by what I read in published news articles and reviews, TED talks and televised programs concerning Alzheimer’s, and choose to quote them here as confirmation that we are indeed mirroring the views of many people in public life and/or in our Universities. In promoting brain health (or Brain Wellness) in a holistic way we continue to pursue interventions that might (there is no finite scientific evidence yet) reduce the potential for Alzheimer’s or another dementia. At the same time we continue our core work of providing counseling and respite to the Caregiver and while their loved one is in our memory care center day programs.
Architects of change such as Maria Shriver and Patti Davis are forcefully promoting their own support groups for Alzheimer’s disease. Patti Davis is the daughter of President Reagan. Ronald Reagan was arguably the first famous person to admit to having the disease and sought to confront the “old fashioned” stigma head on! For ten years his daughter Patti was a Caregiver to her father and for ten long years of the Alzheimer’s journey NO-ONE ever asked her “how are you doing”! So now Patti Davis is a spokesperson for Alzheimer’s awareness and founded Beyond Alzheimer’s to support the Caregivers.
“In the world of Alzheimer’s more than with any other disease, the family members are patients too. Having a safe place to go and talk, cry, laugh sometimes, widens the world, and lightens some of the pain.” – Patti Davis
Robin Seaton Jefferson, is a columnist who writes about the aging US population and contributes to Forbes magazine where I recently found an article on caregiving. Robin lives just outside of St. Louis with her husband of 24 years and two daughters. Find her on Twitter and Facebook @SeatonJefferson or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. I have selected key points from her report and I hope you find it as interesting as I did.
A new study suggests that caregivers need and want to access support resources and that perhaps the experience of caregiving has made them consider the possibility of their own future needs.
- According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease is growing — and growing fast. An estimated 5.5 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease.”
- Of those Americans living with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2017:
One in 10 people age 65 and older (10 percent) has Alzheimer’s dementia.
Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women.
African-Americans are about twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias as older whites.
Hispanics are about one and one-half times as likely to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias as older whites.
- “Because of the increasing number of people age 65 and older in the United States, the number of new cases of Alzheimer’s and other dementias is projected to soar. Today, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s dementia every 66 seconds. By mid-century, someone in the United States will develop the disease every 33 seconds.”
Health care providers who tend to dementia patients’ medical needs could be a key gateway to specific local and electronic resources for their patients’ caregivers. Health care providers should routinely ask patients if they serve as a caregiver to a loved one, so they can identify and address needs and concerns during the caregiver’s own appointments.
The “November 2017 Report: Dementia Caregivers – Juggling, Delaying, and Looking Forward” poll was conducted by the University of Michigan IHPI and sponsored by AARP and Michigan Medicine, the University of Michigan’s academic medical center in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The poll results are based on answers from those who identified themselves as dementia caregivers among a nationally representative sample of 2,131 people ages 50 to 80. It focused on unpaid dementia caregivers, family, and friends who help people with memory problems manage health issues and provide personal care.
Two-thirds of dementia caregivers polled said that their caregiving duties had interfered with work, family time or even getting to the doctor for their own health problems. Some 66 percent say their duties interfere with their own lives and jobs – including 27 percent who said they had neglected something related to their own health because of caregiving’s demands on their time. In fact, one in five caregivers rated their physical health as fair or poor, and 7% rated their mental health as fair or poor. One in seven believe their physical or mental health are not good enough to provide care to the care recipient.
Statistics gleaned from the National Poll on Healthy Aging.
Poll respondents answered a wide range of questions online which were then written, and data interpreted and compiled, by the IHPI team. Laptops and Internet access were provided to poll respondents who did not already have them. These are people who are unpaid, unsung and for the most part spending many hours a day helping someone who may not even recognize them anymore.
The new poll gives a glimpse into the lives of the spouses, grown children and other family members and friends who act as caregivers for millions of Americans with dementia.
Overall, 7% of poll respondents identified as a caregiver of a person age 65 or older with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or another cognitive impairment. Caregivers are most likely to be women under 65 years of age and caring for a parent. To be exact, three in five or 60% provided care to a parent, 19% to a spouse, and 21% to another relative, friend, or neighbor. And the majority of care recipients – or some 70% – have another health condition and/or disability in addition to memory problems, the caregivers reported.
Nearly half of caregivers responding had other jobs in addition to being caregivers. They took care of medical needs, household tasks, and other activities to keep their loved one safe. One-quarter said the person they were caring for couldn’t be left alone for more than an hour.
While some 78 percent of respondents said that caregiving is stressful, even more said it was rewarding, however. In fact, 85 percent of family caregivers called caregiving a rewarding experience. The fact that 45 percent rated it as “very rewarding,” compared to 19 percent who called it “very stressful” should speak to the positive side of caregiving, It should be noted, however, that of the 40 percent of those who called dementia caregiving very stressful also said it was not rewarding.
Respondents to this poll said they believe that being a caregiver has made them think about their future needs.
The study found that only 1 in 4 caregivers reported that they had taken advantage of resources designed to help them, but a full 41 percent of those who didn’t expressed interest in such support.
The study concludes that as the population ages and the number of available caregivers is unlikely to keep pace, it is critically important to ensure that resources to support dementia caregivers are readily available and accessible.
Here at Memory Matters we continue to work closely with the local health community, offering the hospitals and Doctors our support for patients they diagnose with a dementia. We offer an unrivaled counseling service to the Lowcountry community and expect to expand this service through outreach programs in the coming months and years. The statistics published by the Alzheimer’s Association are cause for concern but we feel confident that we will continue to offer professional care for the Caregivers!
For information about Memory Matters including a free of charge memory test, call 1 843 842 6688. All calls are treated with confidentiality. Ask about our Connections program and make an appointment to sample a Connections day in our memory care center.
Memory Matters Vision is to Optimize Brain Wellness