Caregiving for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other form of dementia is isolating. Yet the caregiver is “alone” in a crowd of 16 million people who have taken on this task.
If there were a job opening announced for this job it would read something like this: Position requires you to be on call 24 hours a day. Salary is zero. In fact, you will pay, on average, $10,697 per year to do a job that will negatively affect your own health and may shorten your life.
Average time on the job is eight to 10 years, although some hold the position 20 years or more, according to a press release.
In 2018, nearly a quarter of a million Coloradans are working in this job, among the 16 million in the United States doing the same work for love – not for money.
November is National Alzheimer Disease Awareness and Family Caregivers Month, as proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan, whose wife, Nancy, became his caregiver when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1994.
About two-thirds of these unpaid caregivers are women.
Depression is common among caregivers. According to a study at Stanford University, caregivers have a 63 percent higher mortality rate than non-caregivers. and 40 percent of Alzheimer’s caregivers die from stress-related disorders before the person they are caring for.
One in four are “sandwich generation” caregivers, meaning they care for children younger than age 18 as well as an aging parent.
Survey respondents frequently said they felt they had no choice in whether they could take on the caregiver role.
Many dementia caregivers are highly educated. About 40 percent have at least a college degree if not more education, and 41 percent have a household income of $50,000 or less.
The Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado is the “brains behind saving yours” – offering information, programs and services at no charge for Colorado families. Educational classes are available on a regular basis in Chaffee County and a support group meets from noon to 1 p.m. on the first Thursday of every month at Mount. Shavano Manor, 525 W. 16th St. in Salida.
For information call Ann Carter, regional director of the Alzheimer’s Association. at 303-813-1669, extension 300.
Alzheimer’s Association press release