In an interview last week with the Star Tribune Dr. Dan Trajano, Senior Medical Director of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota made the business case for supporting caregivers. In short, caregivers are on long-term care "first responders" and supporting them improves outcomes - and reduces costs.
As caregivers, we already knew this. Encouraging to know that some of our nations insurers and health care systems are beginning to understand our vital role, and have begun to support us.
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In a large group setting, such as at an adult day care, it can be difficult for caregivers to understand, remember, and cater to each person's individual wants and needs. Using the Care Card, families and caregivers will input the vital information that one needs to provide the best quality of care. Ranging from favorite foods and favorite music to things that upset them, it is now easier than ever to know a person on a personal level from the start.
In the U.S. there are over 15 million family members caring for loved ones with Alzheimer's or dementia. They are often financially, emotionally and physically stressed to the breaking point, and receive little or no support from other family members or friends. I recently met with Susan Galeas, former CEO of Alzheimer's Greater Los Angeles and asked her to list the top three needs that might be on a caregiver's wishlist. Her response was sobering.
If you know someone one is a caregiver you should assume they could use your support, but probably won't ask for it. Take the initiative and offer to help, and don't take no for an answer.
This weekend we polled primary caregivers and asked them what one thing would have the greatest impact on their quality of life. Not surprisingly, the number one item on our caregivers' wish lists was increased financial resources -- by a factor of more than two to one over any other choice. "More money" was chosen by 33% of respondents, while 15% identified more sleep, more help from family, and assistance with chores as their number one wish list pick.
Our small survey underscores the duel stresses on families dealing with Alzheimer's, who must manage the devastating effects of the disease while at the same time often wondering how in the world to pay bills that will only increase over time. As we go through the 2016 primaries and general election, I hope that a candidate emerges who will address the catastrophic financial impact this disease has on families and communities alike.
I created this graphic to illustrate what all too often happens to primary caregivers as their loved one's disease progresses. As the stresses increase, your social connections drop off, to the point where you are almost completely isolated. With no support system to help you cope, the stresses start to take their toll, both physically and emotionally. Taking steps to maintain connections is vital to your health, and your ability to care for the one you love. Have you experienced this, or are you going through it now? What are you doing to keep yourself healthy?
If you have a loved one with Alzheimer's or dementia or know someone who does, The Memory Kit can help.