New findings from an Alzheimer’s Association survey, released today in conjunction with the beginning of Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month, show that while 91 percent of those surveyed overwhelmingly agree it often takes a village to provide care for someone living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, far too many caregivers are doing it alone. In fact, two out of three caregivers felt isolated or alone in their situation, and more than 84 percent of caregivers would have liked more support with caregiving tasks, particularly from their family.
There are currently 15 million Americans providing unpaid care for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia, and this is only going to increase as life expectancies get longer and the number of older Americans grows, so too will the number of individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and family members affected. Without a medical breakthrough, the number of Americans age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s is expected to nearly triple by 2050, from 5.5 million to a projected 16 million. Today, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s every 66 seconds; by 2050, this will hasten to every 33 seconds.
Few plan for caregiving costs and decisions
The survey found that while people greatly fear becoming a burden to their families as they age, they are not planning accordingly. For example, 70 percent of people fear being unable to care for themselves or to support themselves financially, but only 24 percent have planned financially for their families in preparation for any future caregiving needs.
“The emotional, financial and healthcare burdens of Alzheimer’s disease on families that have not planned for it is going to adversely impact personal retirement plans as well as the public healthcare system they rely on,” stated Christopher Smith, Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Association – NYC Chapter. “With so many baby-boomers reaching retirement and the high-risk years for Alzheimer’s, there is a real cause for concern.”
Alzheimer’s stress can bring families closer or tear them apart
Findings from the survey show that in some families, Alzheimer’s caregiving fosters strength and support, yet in other families, it tears relationships apart. Relationships between siblings were found to be the most strained, with more than 40 percent of caregivers feeling like their efforts were undervalued by their family or the person with the disease.
Conversely, 35 percent of survey respondents said caregiving strengthened their relationships with other family members, and relationships between spouses/partners were strengthened the most from the experience, with 81 percent believing that “being emotionally there for each other” was a source of strength they drew upon for caregiving.