Being someone’s sole caregiver doesn’t mean you’re alone

There are resources available and people willing to help you

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by Ray Burow |

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Caregiving is hard work. It’s physically demanding, emotionally straining, and constant.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the majority of caregivers in the United States are women, and daughters make up one-third of dementia caregivers. The website also notes, “Caregivers of people with dementia report providing 27 hours more care per month on average (92 hours versus 65 hours) than caregivers of people without dementia.”

After my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, my sister and I shared caregiving responsibilities. We were both committed to caring for our mom, and I’m sure that either of us would have gone it alone, if necessary. However, we were considerably grateful that we didn’t have to.

Not only were my sister and I caregiving partners, but our family was entirely behind us, supporting our efforts and our mother in multiple ways. We had one another’s backs. I wondered how anyone could do the job of being a loved one’s sole caregiver.

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Going it alone

The statistics aren’t clear on the number of caregivers who go it alone, without outside help or assistance from a sibling, friend, or spouse. Still, given that more than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, there must be countless people who provide care on their own.

We were committed to our mother, and we wanted to care for her, but even working together, caregiving was challenging. How does one do it alone? My hat is off to those who do.

When you’re someone’s sole caregiver, there are no days off — but what happens if a day off becomes unavoidable? Health issues can often be the toll that caregiving extracts.

Preparing for the inevitable

As the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note, more than half of Alzheimer’s family caregivers provide care for at least four years. It is a fortunate caregiver who doesn’t fall ill or experience some other complication during that time.

If you provide care on your own, it’s imperative to plan for the inevitable. The following steps can help:

  • Investigate local resources. Perhaps there’s a respite care facility nearby that provides relief for caregivers. Call the care center to learn what it provides and the cost. Arrange a visit to interview on-site caregivers and the facility’s director.
  • Speak with a trusted family member or close friend about standing in for you in a pinch. Prepare the stand-in caregiver with information and instructions for caring for your loved one should you fall ill or be admitted to the hospital.
  • Stash cash for a rainy day. Use it to hire an in-home health aide to help in an emergency. ZipRecruiter reports that home health aides earn an average of $16.15 per hour. Depending on where you live in the United States, the cost could be higher.
  • Keep a folder with all the pertinent information concerning your loved one. Include a list of medications with instructions on how and when they should be taken. Also, write down your loved one’s healthcare provider and pharmacy.
  • Pack a to-go bag for your loved one. Keep it in a handy place and at the ready in the event that your loved one must stay with a relative or friend or requires respite care.
  • Adopt the buddy system. Check in with a friend at a specific time each week or day with a simple text or a quick call. Instruct the friend to contact you and make sure everything’s OK if they don’t hear from you at the given time. Be diligent about making the call and choose a helper who will be equally diligent.

Remember, no man (or caregiver) is an island

Don’t expect someone who’s not a caregiver to understand what you need. You must reach out and explain what seems obvious to you. You are not alone, even though you provide care on your own. There are resources available and people who are willing to help you. It may take a little work to find the right type of assistance, but making the effort now can pay off when you and your loved one most need help.

Some caregivers may work solo, but there’s a difference between working alone and being alone. You’re not alone.

Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.


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