Caregivers Need Care Themselves

The emotional and sometimes physical stress of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia is intense.

Care in the home

(Photo credit: British Red Cross.)

A recent blog on The New York Times by Jane E. Brody highlights a book by San Jose, Calif., psychologist Judith L. London that focuses on 54 people caught in this plight.
“She based each of the stories on situations confronting caregivers she has encountered, offering suggestions that could help others in similar circumstances,” Brody wrote. “The challenges include convincing patients or other relatives that something is really amiss, that lapses are not only a result of the gradual decline in memory that can accompany aging, as well as keeping people with dementia from slipping unnoticed out of the house and getting lost.”
“Caregiving is an act of love, even for paid caregivers,” London said in an interview. “You put so much of yourself out there all the time, especially with Alzheimer’s patients. The average span of the disease is seven years and it can go on as long as 20 years, and the challenges only increase with time.”
London’s new book is “Support for Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregivers: The Unsung Heroes,” and it is a sort of follow-up to her first book, “Connecting the Dots: Breakthroughs in Communication as Alzheimer’s Advances.”
“Dr. London worries a lot about the stress on these caregivers, and rightly so,” Brody wrote. “According to the data from Stanford University and the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 15 million people provide unpaid care for family members or friends with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. The strain of the task has been shown in many studies to increase the risk of a variety of illnesses, and even death.”
“(C)aregivers are often the casualties, the hidden victims, of Alzheimer’s disease,” London was quoted as saying. “No one sees the sacrifices they make.”

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