Whenever a caregiver comes up to our booth, we like to give them a laminated “bookmark” that lists ways for caregivers to take care of themselves. Often, and especially if the caregiver is an adult child, they will wave dismissively and say they don’t need it.
Now there’s proof they do.
The National Alliance for Caregiving has published an 18-month research study that shows caregivers of a family member with Alzheimer’s Disease require 25% more health care services than non-caregivers in their same age brackets. In fact, during the study time, hospital emergency visits and hospital-based services were double those who were not caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s.
The study was based on more than 1,200 families living in Birmingham, Boston, Miami, Philadelphia and Palo Alto, Calif. To qualify, the caregiver had to be at least 22 and caring for someone with Alzheimer’s for at least the past six months and at least four hours daily. Broken down, the group was comprised of mostly women (83%) averaging 61 years old and caring for someone with a mean age of 78.
Those who self-reported initially to be in fair or poor health were most likely to experience a decline. During the same period, the Alzheimer’s care recipients, in general, saw a drop in cognitive abilities based on the Mini Mental State Exam.
“The findings suggest that the strain of caring for someone with AD can cause family caregivers to use health care services at higher rates than non-caregivers of the same age, including rates for emergency room visits, hospital use and doctor visits,” the study said.
That increase translated to $4,766 more annually in health care costs for caregivers, many of whom are below the age for Medicare to kick in.
The researchers suggest primary care doctors be sensitive to middle-aged and older adults who may be someone’s primary caregiver and make sure they are aware of the physical and mental stress of the job they are undertaking. Here is also where a caregiver support group, such as those offered for free at each of our Glenner Alzheimer’s Family Centers, can be invaluable.
Our support groups meet Wednesdays and provide free adult day care during the sessions.
3702 Fourth Avenue
280 Saylor Drive
(next to Fredericka Manor)
335 Saxony Road
(inside Silverado Senior Living)