Family caregivers for loved ones with Alzheimer's or dementia know how all-encompassing their task is. But while they are focused on the health of their family member, many caregivers ignore warning signs about their own health.
Research from the National Alliance for Caregiving found that the health of family caregivers for loved ones with Alzheimer's "declined steadily and significantly." Caregivers visited emergency rooms for their own health problems at double the rate of noncaregivers. And caregivers, who often spend their own money to support their loved ones, also had higher medical costs of their own as their health suffered.
"I have a support group I run, and I have about 20-25 people who come every single week," says Darlene Jyringi, program director at the Alzheimer's Disease Assistance Center of Long Island (bit.ly/ADACLI) and a gerontologist who specializes in dementia care counseling. "Unfortunately, within the past year, I've lost two of the caregivers. The patient is still living, and the caregiver has died, and I think it's because of the stress associated with caregiving." The Alzheimer's center is a program of the Stony Brook University Medical Center.
Jyringi is coordinating an all-day free event for those who care for loved ones. The 15th annual Alzheimer's Conference for Caregivers features several speakers and topics, including an overview of Alzheimer's, tips on how to communicate with patients as the disease progresses and updates on recent research. The conference is Nov. 8 from 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn in Stony Brook. A free lunch will be served. Registration is required by Oct. 23. Call 631-632-3160.
The conference is a chance for caregivers to get at least a little break from their overwhelming duties. For those who have no one else to take care of their loved one, Jyringi has arranged for Day Haven, an adult care center in Port Jefferson, to care for family members with dementia during the conference. The service is free, but you will have to drop off your loved one at Day Haven and then return for pickup after the conference is over. Day Haven is about five minutes from the conference site. You must let the Alzheimer's center know you will use this service when you register.
To download a caregiver's guide from the National Institute on Aging, go to bit.ly/NIA-caregivers. To take a caregivers stress test from the Alzheimer's Association with advice on what to do if your task becomes too overwhelming, go to bit.ly/alzheimer-stresstest.