Job opening: Position requires you to be on call 24 hours a day. Salary is zero. In fact, you will pay, on average, $10,697 per year to do a job that will negatively affect your own health, and may shorten your life. Average time on the job: 8 to 10 years, although some hold the position 20 or more years.
Sound too good to be true? That’s the job of an unpaid caregiver for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.
November is National Alzheimer’s disease Awareness and Family Caregivers Month, as proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan, whose wife, Nancy, became his caregiver when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1994.
Following are a few interesting facts about those who are volunteer caregivers for loved ones living with dementia:
Most are women. About two-thirds of unpaid caregivers are women.
Women caring for women. Nearly two-thirds of those living with dementia are women.
18.4 billion hours. That’s how many unpaid hours of caregiving were provided in 2017 to persons in the U.S. living with dementia by family and friends.
$232 billion. That’s the value of the hours of unpaid caregiving (average $12.61/hour). That’s a lot of hamburgers. That unpaid caregiving value is more Depression is common. Between 30 and 40 percent of family caregivers for people with dementia suffer from depression compared with 5 to 17 percent of non-caregivers of a similar age.
A high-stress job. Nearly 60 percent of caregivers for those living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia report “high to very high” levels of emotional stress, while 38 percent report “high to very high” levels of physical stress.
It could kill you. A Stanford University study reported that caregivers have a 63 percent higher mortality rate than non-caregivers, and 40 percent of Alzheimer’s caregivers die from stress-related disorders before the person for whom they are caring.
Double trouble. One in four respondents are “sandwich generation” caregivers, meaning they care for children underage 18 as well as an aging parent.
Experience not required. Half of all dementia caregivers (51 percent) report having no prior experience performing medical/nursing-related tasks, and often lack the information or resources necessary to manage complex medication regimens.
“No” is not an option. Survey respondents frequently said that they felt they had no choice in whether they could take on the caregiver role.
Highly educated. About 40 percent of dementia caregivers have at least a college degree, if not more education.
Not highly paid. 41 percent of caregivers have a household income of $50,000 or less.
Almost half tout the benefits. Despite the physical, emotional and financial strain, 45 percent of caregivers surveyed by the Alzheimer’s Association reported the experience was “very rewarding.”
Most commonly expressed concern: “Nobody gets it.” Alzheimer’s caregivers frequently state that others – particularly those who are not caregivers themselves – do not understand the pressures and challenges facing those who are on duty essentially 24 hours a day due to the unpredictable behaviors and sleeping patterns of the person with dementia.
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