Noyes News and Events

October 16, 2017

Caregiving in America

In the poem, Untitled by Carol Dix, she states, “I look into your face, Your eyes stare into space, I try to search deep into your soul, To find the man I once knew, But he is not there.  The emptiness goes beyond compare. Where are you..? I ask. Where have you gone..?” Dix speaks to the millions of caregivers who witness Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other chronic diseases steal away their loved ones.  If statistics run true, more and more of us will be caregivers to loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia.  According to the Alzheimer’s Association, over 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s.  By 2050, this number could rise as high as 16 million.  Those sobering numbers illustrate how taxing this disease is on society, the patients, and those who care for them.  

November is National Family Caregiver’s month, a time to concentrate on the services and support available to caregivers. The job of caregiving is tiring, stressful, and at times painful emotionally and financially.  In 2016, 15.9 million family and friends provided 18.2 billion hours of unpaid assistance to those with Alzheimer's and other dementias, a contribution to the nation valued at $230.1 billion.  Approximately two-thirds of caregivers are women, and 34 percent are age 65 or older.  Forty-one percent of caregivers have a household income of $50,000 or less.  Approximately one quarter of dementia caregivers are "sandwich generation" caregivers — meaning that they care not only for an aging parent, but also for children under age 18.  Alzheimer's takes a devastating toll on caregivers. Compared with caregivers of people without dementia, twice as many caregivers of those with dementia indicate substantial emotional, financial and physical difficulties.

These numbers can be staggering but there is hope and help for caregivers. Knowing the stages of caregiving and your resources can assist you during this time of transition.

Just as the patient with Alzheimer’s or another chronic disease will go through stages, so too, will the caregiver.   Your role will change from being a care partner to a caregiver.  As time progresses and the loved one depends more and more on you, it is important to take care of yourself.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers this advice to caregivers:

  • Keep up with your own medical care. Don't skip regularly scheduled preventive care, such as flu shots or mammograms.

  • Make sure to get enough rest. Inadequate sleep impairs your ability to give care.

  • Continue or start to get regular physical activity. In addition to a variety of benefits for your physical health, regular physical activity is one of the best stress reducers available.

  • Continue to nurture your own social relationships. A strong social network can help you cope with stress and provide support.

  • Reach out for help when you need it. Get acquainted with your local support services.

Locally, there are events and services available for caregivers.  On Saturday, November 4, 2017, from 10 am to 2 pm, UR Medicine Noyes Health in conjunction with the Alzheimer’s Association, Kiwanis Club of Geneseo, Mental Health Association, Livingston County Office for the Aging and Mama Cindy will sponsor the annual Caregiver Retreat.  The event will take place at the Celebrate Family Church in Leicester, is free of charge for caregivers, and includes a complimentary lunch.  This year’s keynote speaker is Elaine W. Miller, popular international author and speaker.  She has brought Splashes of Serenity to audiences for over 25 years. Ms. Miller will encourage caregivers with, Sink or Swim (SOS): Three Things You Will Never Change About Your Life and Ten Things You Can.  In addition, a speaker panel will include Roseann Kraus of the Alzheimer’s Association,  Christa Barrows, Caregiver Resource Center Coordinator at Noyes Health,  Jose Cruz of Lifespan Finger Lakes Caregiver Institute, and John Vogel, Dansville Attorney.

Registration is required and residents from Livingston County and surrounding counties are invited.  Call 585-335-4358 or email: caregiver@noyeshealth.org to register.  

Also available locally is the Noyes Caregiver Resource Center, a collaborative effort between UR Medicine Noyes Health and the Livingston County Office for the Aging.  The center comes alongside family caregivers in Livingston County and provides them with the support they need to meet the challenges that come with caring for someone at home with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or another chronic health condition.  The Caregiver Resource Center supports caregivers by providing information and assistance, education, support groups, and respite care services.  Caregivers often neglect themselves and suffer with high rates of stress-related illness that can affect their ability to be successful caregivers.  Taking care of yourself and learning about resources is vital to the patient, the household, and the caregiver.   

For more information on the Noyes Caregiver Resource Center or if you are interested in volunteering to provide respite services for caregivers, call 585-335-4358 or email: caregiver@noyeshealth.org.  

Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at UR Medicine Noyes Health in Dansville.  If you have questions or suggestions for future articles, contact her at lwichtowski@noyeshealth.org or 585-335-4327.