Those Amazing Informal Caregivers

By Robert Elmer III on August 9, 2020 in Uncategorized

According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2020 Facts and Figures Report, family members and friends provided nearly $244 billion in unpaid care to people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias last year.

These individuals are blessings to their loved one(s). They’re dealing with another persons “health needs and well being.” This can include bathing, dressing, possibly feeding as well as shopping, driving to appointments, paying bills, coordinating care with other family and friends, providing emotional support to their loved one, keeping them safe and so much more.

83% of the help provided older adults in the United States comes from family members, friends or other unpaid caregivers. In fact, 48% of all caregivers of older adults are doing it for someone with Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia. You may also recall that there are more than 16 million Americans providing unpaid care to folks with Alzheimer’s or other dementias.

In 2019, caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias provided an estimated 18.6 billion hours of informal/unpaid care that’s valued at $244.00 billion dollar or approximately 47% of the net value of Walmart’s total revenue in 2019.

So why do they do it? The number one reason is that these dedicated caregivers, at least 65% of them, wish to keep their loved ones home. This may be fine in the early stages of the disease however as the disease progresses, this may not be what’s best for them or the caregiver. The second reason is the caregivers , 48% of them, desire to simply be close to their afflicted loved one and third, 38% of caregivers feel an obligation to the individual with dementia. You remember? “In sickness and in health… Of course that’s not always the situation as 2/3rds of informal caregivers are women and 1/3rd of them are daughters.

There’s no denying that love and a sense of duty play a big role in the obligations that they feel to be caregivers and that’s admirable however they have to be proactive and prepare for the time when their being at home is not the best choice. My experiences have taught me that in spite of a strong bond and a compelling love, most who were ready to “take it to the end” simply were not able to do so and there is no shame in that. It’s important to point out that a very small percentage of older adults (8%) do not receive help from family or other informal caregivers. Nearly 50% of these individuals live alone so that may contribute to the fact that they can’t or don’t reach out for help.

So let’s once again look at what these informal/unpaid caregivers are doing in the course of a week for their loved ones. In providing this list, I’m hopeful that others may be able to see where they can help. Caregivers shop, cook, clean the house, do laundry, provide transportation, set Dr.’s appointments, manage the check book, keep tabs on legal affairs, administer medications and communicate with other family. They may also be helping them walk, clean them after they’ve visited the bathroom, perhaps “change” them and of course deal with the many challenging behaviors they may present. Nearly 60% of those afflicted will wander, what about anxiety and aggression or dealing with delusions or hallucinations?

I have a confession to make. What prompted me to write this article this month was a family I recently met with in Massachusetts. Although this wonderful daughter is doing a great job with her mom she has three other siblings that can but aren’t helping. This woman has a family of her own and runs her own business. AND she is the only one responsible for mom. I’m hopeful she’ll not only read this but send it along to all of her brothers and sisters so they can better understand what she’s experiencing and help. Mom deserves that from all of them. Questions? Email me at Join the Journey

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Robert Elmer IIIView all posts by Robert Elmer III