Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease is an unselfish and honorable undertaking – and one that can result in your own mental and physical exhaustion if you are not careful. It is very easy to forget your own needs when you are providing care to someone who is suffering the agonizing physical and mental deterioration that accompanies Alzheimer’s disease. Keep in mind, however, that if you completely ignore your own needs your body will eventually rebel, and the end result may render you unable to care for your loved one. The elder law attorneys at Nash Bean Ford & Brown, LLP offer tips to caregivers providing unpaid care to elderly loved ones.
Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease
Although not every elderly individual in need of care is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, many are or will develop the disease at some point in the future. As a caregiver it helps to understand the disease and the impact it has on individual sufferers, families, and society as a whole. Consider the following facts and figures:
- Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disorder that attacks the brain’s nerve cells, or neurons, resulting in loss of memory, deterioration of thinking and language skills, and behavioral changes.
- Experts believe the disease is multi-faceted with a number of factors influencing the development of the disease.
- Currently, there is no cure for the disease nor is there an effective method of preventing the development of the disease.
- More than 5 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s.
- Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S.
- 1 in 3 seniors will die suffering from the disease.
- Someone in the U.S. develops the disease every 66 seconds.
- Since 2000, deaths from Alzheimer’s have increased by 89 percent.
- Alzheimer’s kills more people than breast and prostate cancer combined.
- 15 million Americans provide unpaid care for people suffering from Alzheimer’s each year
- In 2016, unpaid caregivers provided over 18 billion hours of care, valued at over 230 billion dollars.
Whether you are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or an elderly individual who is simply succumbing to the physical and mental deterioration that is part of the natural aging process, you will also suffer as will your family as a result of the care you provide if you don’t take steps to prevent that from happening. Consider the following tips:
- Set limits and stick to them. You are human and, therefore, there are limits to what you can do by yourself. Accept that fact and don’t push yourself past your limits.
- Schedule hours/days off every week for yourself. Everyone needs time to recharge. Schedule this time and stick to it because you won’t be any good to anyone if you are run down and exhausted.
- Find a support group. They are not difficult to find. Locate one and lean on the people in the group who are going through the same thing you are.
- Share the burden. Let other family members and/or friends help by taking over on your “day off” or by cooking dinner for you and your family, for example.
- Hire professional help when needed. Most Medicaid programs will cover in-home professional healthcare services for Alzheimer patients. Take advantage of this opportunity to get some much-needed professional assistance.
- Consider paying yourself. Many of those same Medicaid programs offer the option to pay a family member who is providing care. If your loved one qualifies, you may be able to participate in one of those programs, allowing you to accept some financial compensation for your care-giving functions without taking money directly from your loved one who may not have any to spare. Accepting compensation often helps ease the financial burden your care-giving may have placed on your own family.
- Accept the need for long-term care when it becomes necessary. It is not a question of “if,” but of “when” long-term care will be needed. At some point it will no longer be safe for your loved one to remain in your home so do not make the mistake of ignoring this eventuality. Start looking into your options early on so when the time comes everyone is prepared.
Contact an Elder Law Attorney
For additional information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns about elder law issues, contact an experienced elder law attorney at Nash Bean Ford & Brown, LLP by calling 309-944-2188 to schedule your appointment today.