A new year is a time for renewal. It’s the time when we look back at the old year behind us and the new year ahead of us and reflect. Was last year everything it should have been? What can I do to make this new year better? One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was “don’t look back, it’s not where you’re going.” With that in mind if you’re a caregiver of someone with Alzheimer’s, professionally or personally, there’s a great deal you can do to make this new year better for you and for your loved one.
The statistics on the price that is paid by at home caregivers are staggering. There are 15 million unpaid caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s dementia in this country and 30% of those caregivers will pre-decease the people they’re caring for. It’s also important to point out that of all those experiencing caregiver stress, 63% have a higher mortality rate than non caregivers of the same age. That’s not an aberration. I have yet to meet a husband, wife or significant other that would want their life partner to pay that kind of a price on their behalf. In my years in Health Care Administration, I came across numerous husbands and wives that were willing to “go down with the ship” but when I asked them if that would be what their loved one would want, the answer was a very quick, “no.” He would never have asked that of her and she would never have asked that of him.
There are a number of valuable resources available to you to help “lighten the load” of caregiver and I’m pleased to share many of them. I’m aware, thanks to todays technology, that I have readers all over the country, so although some of these recommendations may have a more local focus, remember that many of these resources will also be available in your part of the country or even the world.
Write this number down… 1-800-272-3900. This is the National Alzheimer’s Association. Every time I lecture to nursing students, staff members or to families, I make sure they have this number because it’s a great resource. You can call it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and get the answers to your questions in 160 different languages. In Rhode Island, the number for the local Alzheimer’s Association is 401-421-0008, in Connecticut it’s 860-887-3593. Both offices can help you with everything from learning about behaviors, support groups in your area, names of physicians and so much more. Adult Day Centers are a wonderful way for both of you to get a break from each other. They enjoy activities and socialization and you enjoy the quiet or maybe a relaxing “mani-pedi.” “At Home” care agencies can be a great help as well but make sure that you work with one that has trained staff in Alzheimer’s care as it does you no good to have someone in your house that doesn’t understand what’s happening or how to deal with it. There’s a Southeast Connecticut Region of “Senior Resources-Agency on Aging” and the information available to you there is practically endless. Questions on finances, Medicare and Medicaid, Hospice, housing and so much more are a phone call away at 860-887-3561. Of course there’s the internet but make sure the you’re talking to qualified and knowledgeable individuals. Finally, there are also professionals like myself to help you navigate the caregiving path. Many of us have been a part of the senior care industry for a long time and as a result we have particular insights that are invaluable.
Here’s to a wonderful New Year. If you have any questions, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember…Join The Journey.