Thursday, November 20, 2008

Caregiver Stress study confirms daily family experience

Today's Washington Post article titled "When the caregiver becomes the patient" put numbers to what caregivers - both professional and family caregivers - experience every day: caregiving is stressful.

In fact, caregiving is so stressful that, according to the article, 25% of caregivers of people with Alzheimer's disease end up in the emergency room or hospital every 6 months - at least once. The study doesn't compare this rate to the rate for non-caregivers, but my gut tells me its many, many times higher.

One of the researchers went so far as to suggest that we start thinking of both the person with the AD diagnosis and their family caregiver both as "patients." Clearly, caregivers end up as literal patients far too frequently.

What this means to us as a society is significant, too. With the number of individuals with Alzheimer's disease expected to grow from the current estimate of 4 million to 18.5 million in the coming 40 years, perhaps we should be thinking in terms of double that number of individuals who need to be considered in future health care planning.

And with the state of our health care system, how we can provide compassionate, appropriate care to those individuals - both with Alzheimer's and those who care for them?

Clearly, we need to find as many ways as possible to support family caregivers today, right now. And we need to plan for - and budget for - ongoing support for these individuals so that they, too, do not become victims of a devastating disease.

Give a caregiver in your life a gift of training and support.

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