Caring for the person with dementia proves to be very difficult for families, clients, and loved ones. With current estimates on the rise in the numbers of those diagnosed with the disease, the need for caregivers is sure to increase in the future. Recent studies conducted in the US by the National Alzheimer’s Association conclude that 70% of adults diagnosed with Dementia are living in their own communities. In reality their needs suggest they require long-term care. Most depend on family and friends to meet these needs and provide their care. The 2016 North Carolina Alzheimer’s Association estimated the number of unpaid caregivers in NC to be 469,000. This calculates for 523 million hours of care at a value of 6.6 million dollars. The study also notes that the cost of long-term care for this same number would have been approximately 296 million dollars. Therefore, the potential possible financial strain to our local, state, and federal healthcare system is tremendous.
Medical advances and shorter hospital stays require caregivers to navigate complex care and demands of family and jobs. This is causing significant strain on their individual health and relationships. Many caregivers live with little or no support. As a result, caregivers are at higher risks for poor physical health, chronic illness, and higher mortality rates compared to non-caregivers. Most do not realize the physical and mental strain it has on their lives. Community resources, training, and connecting with other caregivers through support groups can offer social interaction, decreased stress levels, and decreased loneliness.
In conclusion, it is both appropriate and reasonable to ask the question, "while the caregiver is taking care of the client, who is caring for the caregiver?" Screening for caregiver stress and intervening before stress turns into burnout is part of good dementia care and will ensure that the patient with dementia receives care that is competent and compassionate.
Resources: “National Alzheimer’s Association”
Lisa Neville, RN BC
Carol Diggs, QP
Stephani Deberry, QP
Linda Farrell, RN