March 20, 2016
Caregivers and family members spend, on average, more than 100 hours a month caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia in the home, according to a new report. That time commitment is far greater than caring for an elderly person who is frail or has health problems other than dementia.
The findings come from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who analyzed data from the 2011 National Health and Aging Trends Study and its companion study, the National Study of Caregiving. The study focused on unpaid care for those who were living at home. It did not include people with dementia or other illnesses who were being cared for in a nursing home or other institutional setting.
The researchers found that over all, one-third of caregivers were caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia in the home. Alzheimer’s care accounted for 41 percent of all the hours of unpaid home care provided – averaging about 100 hours a month. Caring for the elderly with problems other than dementia required, on average, about 73 hours a month.
The authors found that 77 percent of those with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia required help with day-to-day tasks like bathing, preparing meals and getting dressed. In comparison, only 20 percent of seniors without dementia required help with daily tasks.
Medicare, the federal health insurance program for those over 65, generally covers home health services only if they are related to medical problems. Medicare does not reimburse for help with personal care that people with dementia so often require.
Most commonly, spouses, children (usually daughters) or family members and others living in the home provided home care for those with Alzheimer’s, the researchers report. The study also found that unpaid caregivers provided substantial help – on average, about 45 hours a month — to those with Alzheimer’s who were living in assisted-living facilities or nursing homes. The findings were published in Health Affairs.
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is not easy. Difficult behaviors such as apathy, agitation, wandering and incontinence are all too common among those with dementia and can aggravate stress in those who care for them.
As stress builds, caregivers may feel increasingly overwhelmed and feel they have no choice but to place their loved one in a nursing home. Studies have shown that comprehensive counseling and support can be of great help to home caregivers, improving coping skills and restoring a sense of control.
Source: Judith D. Kasper, Vicki A. Freedman, Brenda C. Spillman, Jennifer L. Woolf: The Disproportionate Impact Of Dementia On Family And Unpaid Caregiving To Older Adults. Health Affairs, Vol. 34, No. 10, pages 1642-1649, October 2015.