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The Importance of Caring for Yourself While Caring for Someone With Alzheimer’s - Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Caregiver burnout is real. Here's how to ward it off.

By Teresa Santos, Contributor 

A movie ticket stub, a piece of candy from Puerto Rico, a program from an opera and a photo taken at a New York Yankees game. These items, strewn across my desk, represent activities caregivers have participated in for themselves – while taking care of someone they love who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

As a Bronx social worker and the care coordinator at Montefiore Health System’s Memory Disorder Center and Montefiore Einstein Center for the Aging Brain, serving a population as diverse as these items, I glance at them often to remind myself of just how important it is for caregivers to care for themselves and participate in activities that bring them joy.

Why is this important? Because caregiver burnout is real and can inadvertently lead to losing the very person providing care due to their own neglected health, financial strains and other accompanying problems. In a recent study, caregiver "strain" was associated with a 63 percent increased mortality risk, even after controlling for presence of cardiovascular disease and sociodemographic factors. Caregivers might even be at higher risk of cognitive impairment or dementia than non-caregivers.

[See:5 Ways to Cope With Mild Cognitive Impairment.]

According to 2015 figures, 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. It is the 5th leading cause of death for Americans over age 65. With an increase in the number of diagnoses comes an increase in the need for care provided by caregivers. In 2015 alone, 15 million Americans dedicated over 18 billion hours and provided $221.3 billion worth of caregiving services. Yet, when asked to spend just a few dollars or hours on their own care, caregivers often initially react with resistance.

For more information visit: HTTP://health.usnews.com/health-care/for-better/articles/2016-11-09/the-importance-of-caring-for-yourself-while-caring-for-someone-with-alzheimers


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