November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregiver’s Month.
The Alzheimer’s Association Nebraska Chapter is marking National Family Caregiver's Month by sharing education and information about recent Alzheimer’s caregiving statistics to inform the public and showcasing caregiver stories.
The association will be recognizing and honoring the 82,000 family members and friends across the state of Nebraska who are currently caring for one of the 34,000 Nebraska residents living with Alzheimer’s through internal and external engagement opportunities, such as free education and support group opportunities found at communityresourcefinder.org.
The Alzheimer’s Association will also be partnering with external organizations, such as Nebraska owned Sapp Bros. Travel Center to increase awareness through a caregiver support campaign and the International Quilt Study Center and Museum for an exhibit produced by an individual who faced Alzheimer’s disease and her care partners.
According to a recent 2017 Alzheimer’s Association produced survey:
- Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or other dementias is exceptionally demanding.
- Dementia caregivers are more likely than caregivers assisting individuals with other conditions to assist with activities of daily living, particularly bathing or showering (34 percent versus 23 percent) and handling incontinence or diapers (32 percent versus 12 percent).
- Caring for someone with dementia may also require managing symptoms that caregivers of people with other diseases may not face, such as neuropsychiatric symptoms (anxiety, apathy, lack of inhibition) and significant behavioral problems. Family caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias are more likely than family caregivers of people without dementia to help with emotional or mental health problems (41 percent versus 16 percent) and behavioral issues (15 percent versus 4 percent).
- Caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias provide care for a longer time, on average, than caregivers of older adults with other conditions. More than six in 10 (63 percent) of Alzheimer’s caregivers expect to continue in their care responsibilities for the next five years compared with less than half of caregivers of people without dementia (49 percent). Studies indicate that people age 65 and older survive an average of four to eight years after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s dementia, yet some live as long as 20 years with Alzheimer’s.
- More than one-third (35 percent) of caregivers for people with Alzheimer’s or another dementia report that their health has gotten worse due to care responsibilities compared to 19 percent of caregivers of people without dementia. Nearly half of dementia caregivers indicate that providing help is highly stressful (49 percent) compared with 35 percent of caregivers of people without dementia. The prevalence of depression among dementia caregivers is higher than among those who provide help to individuals with schizophrenia (20 percent) or stroke (19 percent). Similarly, the prevalence of anxiety among dementia caregivers is 44 percent, which is higher than caregivers of people who have suffered a stroke (31 percent).
- The responsibilities of Alzheimer’s caregiving fall disproportionately on women. Approximately two-thirds of caregivers are women. According to the 2015 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey, more than twice as many women caregivers as men spend more than 40 hours per week providing care. Of those providing care to someone with dementia for more than 5 years, 63 percent are women and 37 percent are men.
Sharon Jensen, Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Association Nebraska Chapter, knows that offering the general public ideas on how to lend a hand to a caregiver this month and year-round is critical in bolstering caregiver quality of life and overall health.
“Many people ask – 'how can I help the caregivers in my life?' The Alzheimer’s Association advises to educate yourself about the symptoms and progression of the disease, as well as the common challenges faced by caregivers," Jensen said. "Then, help the caregiver by providing specific tasks, such as preparing meals or running errands, and consider offering them a respite break by spending time with the individual living with dementia. Stay in touch with them, being sure to help them assess their own well-being and encourage them to visit their own physician regularly.”
For more information about ways to enhance support for caregivers, please visit alz.org/nebraska or call our free 24/7 helpline at 800-272-3900. If you’d like to honor a person living with the disease, consider joining the Alzheimer’s Association as a volunteer to advocate for more research funding, participate in a clinical trial, lead program and support services or to participate in fundraising events such as the Walk to End Alzheimer’s and the Longest Day.