A Caregiver's Journey: What to Expect When Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer's
Why It Matters:
- Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.1
- Women are affected disproportionately, with females comprising almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s and two-thirds of caregivers.1
- Approximately one-quarter of dementia caregivers are “sandwich generation” caregivers — meaning that they care for both an aging parent, and also for children under age 18.1
Caregiving for our Caregivers
When we were growing up, we all had caregivers. Most likely, they were parents or other family members who provided for us and were there when we needed them.
When the time comes for our caregivers to need someone to care for them, it’s only natural we would want to return the favor. Yet despite the best of intentions, navigating even the strongest relationships can be tricky when the roles become reversed.
The Sandwich Generation
The “Sandwich Generation” refers to those simultaneously caring for aging parents and children under 18. This scenario is now more common than ever, due in part to increased lifespans and a tendency to have kids at an older age. Plus, the “sandwich” typically has more layers, with demands from work, spouses, and friends, not to mention personal needs, piling onto the proverbial plate.
Not surprisingly, this constant tug-of-war between multiple priorities can take an emotional and physical toll on a caregiver over time. Add a disease like Alzheimer’s or another dementia to the equation, and getting support for the caregiver in his or her journey becomes more important than ever.
Grab a Road Map (or Two)
Fortunately, many resources exist that can empower caregivers to address the challenges they’ll face. Knowing what to expect, what to do, and how to cope can go a long way toward alleviating the inevitable feelings of uncertainty and stress. Preparation can also empower caregivers to be proactive versus reactive, and allow them to help loved ones be better prepared as well.
Reviewing a caregiver journey created by The AgingWell Hub ― a research collaborative at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business ― can offer some insight to the road ahead. In this scenario, an adult daughter named Karen who is married, has two pre-teen daughters and a full-time job, is faced with caring for her mother who has Alzheimer’s disease.1 It explores the phases of the disease, Karen’s experience, and her needs, and offers actionable ways for caregivers to manage their personal journey.
Things to Consider:
- Are you prepared for the possibility of becoming a caretaker for a loved one?
- Does your loved one have resources to cover long term care expenses in case of a chronic disease or condition?
- Consult legal and financial professionals to get guidance on your individual situation.
1 “Caregiver Journey Map,” AgingWell Hub, November 2017 (Updated March 2020)
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