Education, resources and local community events for caregivers and families living with Alzheimer’s in the Coastal Bend
By: Nestor H. Praderio, M.D.
When Alzheimer’s disease knocks on the door, there are many real disappointments that occur suddenly in the lives of those loved ones and caregivers. Together we get the sensation of false expectations. We start with the denial that this will be something that will disappear, or will be cured or ameliorated in a way that won’t impact us at such a rate. But we wake up with the reality that this devastating disease is here to stay. This disease is not a normal part of aging. Progressively, this disease takes the mind of individuals piece-by-piece into the dark consequences of constant deterioration.
Alzheimer’s: the only disease that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed
Many attempts have been targeted through the years in the development of new medication to cure Alzheimer’s disease. But to this day, we are still walking with empty hands, hoping to find some type of medication that will end this disease.
It is very common for a caregiver to correct the person who is losing his or her memory. The caregiver emphasizes that what the person is saying is “wrong,” and that it should be something else. Through this type of intervention, caregivers believe they can create some relief. Unfortunately, this creates the opposite. It disturbs the person with memory loss; it creates stress and anxiety; and, more specifically, it agitates the person.
The importance of a holistic approach for treatment is emphasized at our monthly Alzheimer’s Support Program. Our goal is to provide a better understanding of the transitions that are or will be experienced by individuals and their caregivers. We provide the opportunity to share experiences, both good and bad, so that together, we can process and offer recommendations for others. Within this environment, we define the disease, along with its variations, give a brief review without being scientific and discuss difficulties faced by the caregiver as well as the patient. In addition, resources are provided by various local organizations. Our goal is to equip, empower and encourage our caregivers in caring for their loved one.
Alarming statistics about Alzheimer’s in the United States:
• Every 67 seconds, someone develops the disease.
• Almost two-thirds with the disease are women.
• It is the sixth leading cause of death.
• One in three seniors dies with the disease or another type of dementia.
• By 2025, number of people age 65 and older with the disease is estimated to reach 7.1 million.
Alzheimer’s takes a devastating toll on caregivers
There seems to be a trend during the past 18 months that shows a higher number of patients are being cared for by elderly caregivers. Recently, an elderly male patient with Alzheimer’s, whose sole caregiver is his elderly wife, had become very agitated. I had him admitted to the hospital for care, which resulted in an inadvertent seven-day respite for his wife. A little rest to recharge, energize and return to the process of caregiving is the best prescription for caregivers.
Research from 2014 shows that in Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers:
• Nearly 60 percent rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high.
• About 40 percent suffer from depression.
• They had $9.7 billion in additional health care costs of their own in 2014, due to the physical and emotional toll of caregiving.
• They provided an estimated 17.9 billion hours of unpaid care.
• Approximately two-thirds are women.
• Approximately 34 percent are age 65 or older.
• Forty-one percent have a household income of $50,000 or less.
• More than half are taking care of their parents.
Using local resources to benefit residents of the Coastal Bend, Face to Face has been supporting different educational activities throughout the years, as well as sponsoring and developing events that explicitly dedicate time to caregivers and family members.
• Face to Face Support Group
• Family & Friends Caregiver Festival
• Coastal Bend Walk for Memory
• Memories on Canvas
• National Memory Screening Day
• Alzheimer’s Candlelight Vigil