By Catey Hill
Taking care of a parent or spouse with Alzheimer’s can be emotionally, physically, and — as a new study shows — financially taxing.
People taking care of an Alzheimer’s sufferer face health-care costs that are $4,766 higher per year than the average person, according to a study released today by the National Alliance for Caregiving. What’s more, as the patient’s health gets worse, the health of the caregiver also tended to get worse, resulting in higher health care costs to the caregiver. The use of emergency room visits and hospital services, for example, doubled for caregivers whose patient’s health worsened over the 18-month study period.
Some of these health care costs may be due to the high stress levels that Alzheimer’s caregivers face, which in turn, impacts their health, says Gail Gibson Hunt, the president and CEO of the organization. Stress has been linked to everything from sleep problems to increased alcohol use to heart disease – all of which can lead to a need for a doctor or hospital admission.
Although Alzheimer’s caregivers often spend more on their own health care costs than non-caregivers, experts say there are things caregivers can do to try to reduce this adverse impact of on their health (and in turn, higher health care costs). Here are a few recommendations.
Assess your home: Since most homes aren’t well-equipped to take care of an Alzheimer’s patient, Hunt recommends caregivers get “home assessment” from a professional, such as a contractor who specializes in home modifications for the elderly. This assessment may include everything from recommendations for alarms to video systems for looking after the person from another room.) For help finding a caregiver for an Alzheimer’s patient or to get an assessment of a home, Hunt recommends contacting a local government Area on Aging office (a quick Google search of your state and “area on aging” will produce a list of nearby agencies.).
Get help: “Look into getting respite care so you can get a break,” Hunt says. Finding someone to watch an Alzheimer’s charge, even for a few hours a week, gives primary caregivers the change to recharge – whether that means exercising or having coffee with a friend. Check out ElderCare.gov for local respite care resources.
Join a group: Taking care of an Alzheimer’s patient comes with a unique set of challenges and emotions, and sometimes it can help to talk to other people going through the same experience, experts say. To find a local support group, check out Caregiver.com.
For more tips on caregiving, click here.