HealthSponsoredByAccording to a National Alzheimer’s Association 2011 Facts & Figures Report, there are 110,000 people 65 years and older with Alzheimer’s in Wisconsin. Over 188,000 caregivers provided unpaid care valued at over $2.5 billion. In 2014, Alzheimer’s cost the nation $214 billion. This number is expected to rise to $1.2 trillion by 2050.

Dementia is caused by various diseases and conditions that result in damaged brain cells or connections between brain cells. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia and accounts for an estimated 60 to 80 percent of cases. Early symptoms of Alzheimer’s include difficulty remembering names. Apathy and depression are also often early symptoms. Later symptoms include impaired judgment, disorientation, confusion, behavior changes and difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking.

I would like to say a big “Thank you, thank you, thank you” to all of the caregivers in our area. Caregiving for someone with memory loss or dementia is no small task. Each one of the individual tasks may be manageable on its own. However, juggling multiple caregiving responsibilities with the demands of your own life can be challenging and stressful. Research shows African American caregivers, as compared to white caregivers, provide more hours of care, higher-intensity care, and are more likely to experience financial stress due to caregiving. We will seldom put our loved ones in nursing homes or hospice until it is the very end and after we feel we can no longer take care of them.

I have worked with African American caregivers who are taking care of their spouses, mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends. They are wonderful, compassionate African American people (research also shows more African American women provide caregiving than any other group) who have devoted their time, energy and, in most cases, their lives to the care of their loved ones.

The financial burden alone is one of the biggest hardships for the caregiver. Many have given up their jobs in order to take care of their loved ones. With their lost income, African Americans are in need of financial help from other resources.

If you find yourself in a caregiving role, what can you do?

1. Educate yourself about Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias
2. Learn about resources available to help you and your family
3. Be kind to yourself and find ways to take breaks
4. Join a support group
5. Don’t wait till the last minute to get help from the village
6. Don’t go on this journey alone; your family is not the only one affected by this disease.
7. Start talking about Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias so we as a group can put an end to this silent epidemic in our community
8. Remember I am here for you and your family. Please feel free to give me a call at (608)204-9789 or e-mail me at [email protected]