Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s
is a second job for some
November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month. Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s can take a toll in a number of ways. In addition to the mental, emotional and physical impact of caregiving, its practical implications — such as balancing a paying job with a new career helping someone with the disease — may also bring a variety of challenges for the more than 15 million unpaid Alzheimer’s caregivers in the United States.
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease is an emotionally devastating experience for many. It’s heartbreaking to watch a loved one – often a parent or spouse – change before your eyes into someone else. But, in addition to the mental and emotional impact of caring for someone with the condition, the practical implications of offering such care can be equally difficult. One of the biggest of these is balancing your paying job with your new career helping your ailing loved one.
“I think one of the things I hear most from caregivers is how difficult it is to manage the things you need to manage as a caregiver and still be able to do your job,” said Beth Kallmyer, vice president of constituent services for the Alzheimer’s Association.
Nationwide, more than 15 million people are providing unpaid care to people with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, and that number is only expected to grow. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are roughly 5.4 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s. By 2050, the association projects about 16 million people will have the disease.
About half of those providing unpaid care to loved ones work at least part-time, and Kallmyer said that can cause a variety of challenges. Working people might have trouble finding to provide care while they’re at work or might have to leave the office if there’s a medical emergency. In fact, the Alzheimer’s Association reports that 65 percent of caregivers report either going in late, leaving early or taking time off to attend to their loved one. “We know this is impacting their jobs,” she said.
Beth Smith-Boivin agreed. Smith-Boivin is executive director and chief executive officer of the Northeastern New York Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, and former director of the Alzheimer’s/Dementia Resource Program at Albany Medical Center. In her experience, one of the things that sets caring for a dementia patient apart from caring for someone with cancer or another illness is dementia’s lack of predictability. Someone caring for a parent or spouse with, for example, lung cancer, might have to miss work for doctors’ appointments or chemotherapy sessions, but those can be planned in advance. “Even with traumatic illnesses, like cancer, the cognitive component is still in place,” Smith-Boivin said.
But an illness like Alzheimer’s, which cause mental faculties to deteriorate, is more likely to result in unannounced emergencies. “At any given moment, somebody who is a caregiver can get a call that their loved one is lost, for example,” Smith-Boivin said. “There is a lack of predictability that requires flexibility.”
She said the best thing a caregiver can do to help balance her personal and professional responsibilities is to have a frank talk with her employer about what dementia is, and the demands that she might face due to being a caregiver. “My feeling is that it’s always very important to have complete disclosure,” Smith-Boivin said.
Planning is just as important as communication and flexibility, Kallmyer said. “There’s no cure for Alzheimer’s and there’s no effective treatment that’s going to slow it down,” she said. “Planning ahead – whether it’s financial planning, or planning about how you’re going to provide care or any kind of planning is important. If those plans are in place ahead of time, when something happens, all you need to do is enact those plans. And that makes a difference.”
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Honor a caregiver >> http://www.timesunion.com/living/article/Just-like-a-second-job-4062037.php