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Alzheimer's Caregivers: Sandwiched Between Parenting Your Kids and Your Parents

Caring for kids and a loved one with Alzheimer’s, too? Here’s how to make it easier -- for everyone.
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Alzheimer’s Caregiver: 7 Things You Need to Know

Experts say that the sooner you accept your new caregiving role, the better. You and your family have a lot to prepare for. For instance, will your loved one move in with you? Do you have the finances to support care in a nursing facility? Here are seven things you need to accept about your future as a caregiver.

  1. Your loved one may live for many years. The life expectancy of someone with Alzheimer’s depends on the age of diagnosis. Many people with Alzheimer’s disease live eight, 10, or more years. Becoming a caregiver is a serious, long-term commitment.
  2. The demands of Alzheimer’s caregiving will increase. As the disease progresses, your loved one will need more and more help. “In the early stages of the disease, caregivers spend about 14 hours a week on average caring for the person,” says Guy S. Eakin, PhD, from the Alzheimer's Disease Research program at the American Health Assistance Foundation. “In the advanced stages, it’s literally a fulltime job -- 40 hours a week.”
  3. Caregiving will affect your job. According to Beth Kallmyer, MSW, of the Alzheimer's Association, about 50% of caregivers continue to work full or part-time. Two-thirds of them say that their caregiving had a significant impact on their career.
  4. Being an Alzheimer’s caregiver will affect your family. You may hope to shield your kids from your loved one’s disease and the responsibilities of caregiving. But in the long-run, you can’t. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing. There may be ways to get your children involved that will not only give you, the caregiver, support, but will benefit your loved one and the kids themselves.
  5. Caregiving will affect your finances. “Estimates for the average financial impact on a family for caregiving ranges from $16,000 to $70,000 a year,” Eakin tells WebMD. The range depends on whether the estimate includes the indirect costs, he says, like a caregiver going on leave from a job without pay.
  6. You can’t be an Alzheimer’s caregiver alone. Taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s is too much for one person, especially if you’re raising kids too. You’ll need caregiver support from your spouse, siblings, doctors, local and national organizations – and of anyone else who offers it.
  7. Caregiving requires skills. Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t come naturally any more than piloting a submarine or lecturing on physics comes naturally. “Caregiving for someone with dementia isn’t intuitive,” says Schempp. “Sometimes the logical, natural thing to do is the wrong thing.” You need to learn about the disease, its treatment, and the legal and financial issues. Consult good Alzheimer’s disease web sites, books, healthcare professionals, counselors, and other caregivers. Don’t try to muddle through on your own.
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How long have you been taking care of someone with Alzheimer's?