When you are a caregiver, it’s easy to start believing that you are alone in your struggle.
After all, the focus of your life becomes the one who needs care. More and more of your day is devoted to making sure your loved one can get through his. Food, personal care, medication and other essentials take priority over other things.
Imagine doing all of that with someone who isn’t able to communicate very well or who lives in their own “world.” Imagine having to repeat commands over and over again until you are understood, taking different approaches and still not getting through. Imagine having your loved one grow more frustrated as they struggle to figure out what you want.
It’s no wonder that caregivers for those with dementia report twice as many emotional, financial and physical difficulties than caregivers for those without dementia.
That was one of the findings in the Alzheimer’s Association annual “Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures” report released earlier this month.
Sadly, we caregivers for those with dementia are hardly alone, and our ranks are growing every day.
Here is a quick look at some of the numbers:
- More than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. That number is expected to reach nearly 13 million by 2050.
- During the COVID-19 pandemic, Alzheimer’s and dementia deaths increased 16% in the United States.
- One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. That means it kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.
- This year, Alzheimer’s and other dementias will cost the nation $355 billion. By 2050, the total could increase to as much as $1.1 trillion.
- More than 11 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia.
- Last year, those caregivers provided an estimated 15.3 billion hours of care, which is valued at nearly $257 billion.
Eighty-three percent of the help provided to older adults in the United States comes from family members, friends or other unpaid caregivers, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Nearly half of those caregivers do so for someone with Alzheimer’s or another dementia.
Not surprisingly, two-thirds of caregivers are women and one-third of dementia caregivers are daughters. I fell into that category when I took care of my mother, who had vascular dementia.
Also not surprisingly, 66% of caregivers live with the person with dementia in the community.
Because of this, the Alzheimer’s Association found that of the total lifetime cost of caring for someone with dementia, 70% of it is borne by families. They do so either through out-of-pocket health and long-term care expenses or from the value of unpaid care.
Here in Illinois, $1.787 billion in Medicaid costs went to caring for people with Alzheimer’s in 2020, and a 23% increase in costs is expected between 2020 and 2025. Medicare spends $30,339 per capita on people with dementia here in Illinois.
As for caregivers, there are 381,000 of us in Illinois, with 53.5% reporting chronic health conditions, 21.4% reporting depression and 16.7% of us in poor physical health.
This is a club no one should have to join, yet despite what it feels like, we caregivers are not alone.
To learn more, the full “Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures” report can be found online at alz.org.
• Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at email@example.com.