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Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

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Number of Alzheimer’s Caregivers Is Increasing

15 Million Americans Take Care of Someone With Alzheimer’s or Dementia

Caregivers Under Stress

According to the report, 61% of caregivers polled report the stress as ''high" or ''very high," and 33% reported depression related to caregiving. While many with Alzheimer's are cared for in dedicated Alzheimer's units, Carrillo said many are cared for at home by unpaid loved ones.

Over time, she says, the disease takes its toll and caregiving becomes all-consuming.

"The individuals over time are no longer able to do anything for themselves," she says. The caregiver must see that the person eats on time, takes medication on time, and often must also tend to their personal hygiene and keep a watchful eye so they don't wander, a common behavior.

The report underscores the need for more research dollars, Carrillo says, so more effective medications can be developed.

Right now, about 75 experimental therapies meant to slow or stop the progression of Alzheimer's are in clinical testing in people, according to the report. Six drugs are in phase III (final) clinical development.

''Early detection is key," she says. According to the report, primary care physicians have access to simple, inexpensive tests that can be used in the office to screen for dementia.

For instance, there is the Mini-Cog test and the General Practitioner Assessment of Cognition. These tests are useful as routine assessments to identify those who require more complete testing, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

Resources for Caregivers

Crocco agrees that many people may think those with Alzheimer's disease typically live in an Alzheimer's care unit.

''What they don't realize is, it's a tiny fraction," she says. Many patients are cared for at home by unpaid family members. Often, a caregiver is a daughter of the patient, she finds, and often caring also for their own young children.

What can help the caregiver? "There are a lot of resources available to caregivers that they are totally unaware of," she says.

To find resources, she suggests caregivers contact a memory disorders center, geriatric social worker or geriatric psychiatrist in their community, or contact the Alzheimer's Association.

Among the options, she says, are day care centers for adults with Alzheimer's, respite care to give caregivers a break, and support groups to help caregivers deal with stress and depression.

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