Apr 17, 2010

Do Doctors Understand that the Alzheimer's Caregiver is also a Patient ?

Dear Alzheimer's caregiver, please remember to take care of yourself........
By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia affect more than the patient, Alzheimer's also affects the caregiver.

As Alzheimer's disease develops it continues to destroy the brain cells of the patient. As times goes on the patient losses the ability to perform simple tasks like getting dressed and brushing their teeth. As the disease progresses the burden on the caregiver increases.

This cumulative burden results in more and more stress for the caregiver.

How many doctors consider this as they are treating Alzheimer's patients? How many families consider this? Who, if anyone, is constantly monitoring the mental and emotional well being of the Alzheimer's caregiver?

Alzheimer's disease is sinister. In most cases it develops slowly but steadily over a very long period of time. It is not unusual for a caregiver to serve in their role for more then a decade. We have many readers that have been at it for very long periods of time. Five years, ten yesrs, twenty years, it happens.

Studies show that 80 percent of Alzheimer's caregivers report that they frequently feel high levels of stress. Studies indicate that 40 percent or more of Alzheimer's caregivers suffer from depression. Four out of ten. Put ten of us in room together and it doesn't look good for us as a group. I don't like the odds.

There have been times over the years where I had a feeling that I never felt before. I am not sure how many times I was consumed by a feeling of "hopelessness". Feeling there was noting I could do. Feeling that the end was near. Worried that I would wake up soon and my mother wouldn't know me.

There were times when I felt like I was standing on the edge of a cliff. I did think to myself. Am I depressed? Am I going to end up depressed. Like I said, I don't like the odds. Four out of ten.

Like all caregivers I am made of flesh and blood. Only the fool would tell themselves they are immune to the possibility of depression while caring.

I admit, I check myself all the time. I ask myself, how am I doing? Am I getting depressed? What is it like to be depressed? What does it feel like? What are the chances that I will know if I get depressed?

Knowing that I already experienced the cumulative effect of more then six years of Alzheimer's caregiving does this make me more vulnerable to depression? Or does it make me stronger?

Knowing that Alzheimer's disease has been beating on me for six years as a caregiver, is it going to beat me down when things get worse with my mother? Am I going to crack when she doesn't know me?

I ask myself these questions all the time.
  • Do I feel guilty?
  • How do I feel about myself?
  • Am I having trouble sleeping?
  • How is my blood pressure (hypertension)?
  • Am I able to concentrate?
  • Am I getting angry?
  • Am I getting anxiety attacks?
  • Do I feel exhausted?
  • Do I feel like I want to live in a cave (avoid social interaction)?
  • Do I want to run away from home?
  • Am I worried about my future?
Nobody is asking me those question, so I check on myself. So far so good. And you?

If doctors can't diagnose Alzheimer's disease effectively, how are they going to diagnose Alzheimer's caregiver depression?

Are doctors asking the caregivers questions designed to diagnose depression or discover indications of depression? Are doctors aware that 40 percent of Alzheimer's caregivers suffer from depression? Do they care?

I don't know. Ask yourself the questions above. If you start answering yes to those questions, ask for some help. Do it now.

Dear Alzheimer's caregiver, please remember to take care of yourself.

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Bob DeMarco is the editor of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. Bob has written more than 1,300 articles with more than 9,000 links on the Internet. Bob resides in Delray Beach, FL.

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room