This week, like so many others, I was deeply touched by a precious moment — captured on video — between Georgia resident Kelly Gunderson and her 87-year-old mother, Daphne, who suffers with Alzheimer’s disease. As mother and daughter converse, lying side by side in what appears to be a hospital bed, Daphne recognizes her daughter — for the first time in a long while. Having been a family caregiver myself, I know moments like this keep us strong and help us carry on.
Millions of families, like Kelly’s, are affected by Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia each year. The numbers are staggering. According to the Alzheimer’s Association:
- Every 67 seconds, someone develops Alzheimer’s.
- One-third of seniors die with Alzheimer’s or another dementia.
- 15.5 million family caregivers provide 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia.
Supporting family caregivers of loved ones with dementia
Being a family caregiver can be a big job, but when caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia, every moment is more intense. A new report by AARP’s Public Policy Institute and the United Hospital Fund shows that these family caregivers are among those most in need of support.
Compared to other caregivers, they:
- provide care for longer periods of time
- care for loved ones with higher rates of chronic conditions like stroke/hypertension, cardiac disease and diabetes
- are more likely to manage medications for their loved ones
- are more likely to feel no choice in performing complicated medical/nursing tasks like medication management or wound care
- most likely did not receive a home visit from a health care professional
Family caregivers need support and training through the challenging moments they encounter, like managing medication, performing other complex medical/nursing tasks and more. That’s one of the reasons AARP created the Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act — to help family caregivers when their loved ones go into the hospital and transition home. The CARE Act addresses three simple things to help all family caregivers:
- The name of the family caregiver is recorded when a loved one is admitted into the hospital.
- The family caregiver is notified when the loved one is to be discharged.
- The family caregiver is trained on the medical tasks she or he will need to perform once the loved one is home, such as medication management, injections and special diets.
This year, Oklahoma became the first state in the nation to pass the CARE Act. Legislators are now considering the measure in Illinois, New Jersey and New York.
Fellow family caregivers, remember, you’re not alone.
- To find the tools and support you need, as well as ways to connect with other caregivers, visit the AARP Caregiving Resource Center.
- To stay up to date or get involved with our caregiving advocacy in the states, sign up for the AARP Advocates e-newsletter or visit your state Web page.