Caring Currents

Alzheimer's Caregivers' #1 Challenge

Last updated: Mar 11, 2008

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For all the emphasis on the practical difficulties of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or other dementias, an enlightening new study reports that daily care isn’t the worst of it: Grief is.That may not come as a surprise if you’re in the trenches. But it does shed light on an under-served aspect of care-giving--the emotional toll. University of Indianapolis researchers asked more than 400 caregivers the open-ended question: “What would you say is the biggest barrier you have faced as a caregiver?” More than 80 percent referred to the loss of the person they used to know.Alzheimer’s care-giving is especially painful because we experience two hard psychological states at once:1. “Anticipatory grief”: the pain of losing a loved one, felt in advance of the person’s death (a common phenomenon with the terminally ill).2. "Ambiguous loss”: interacting with someone who’s not fully present socially or psychologically.That’s a tough mix. Little wonder a separate long-term study last fall found that counseling and support helps Alzheimer’s caregivers have better health--including a lower incidence of depression.FYI, some of the other top barriers in the Indianapolis survey: the sufferer’s difficult behavior and need for hands-on care, loss of personal time, and a lack of community and financial support.How about you: Does your care-giving experience jive with this study?

Image by Flickr user boryaused under the Creative Commons attribution license.