Healthy Living

The Financial Burden of Alzheimer's for Caregivers

The Financial Burden of Alzheimer's for Caregivers

As medical professionals have continued to discover the various diseases that exist today, some more than others stand out as bringing serious repercussions to not only the patient, but those looking after them. One specific disease that brings with it serious repercussions is dementia. This disease is associated with the mental and physical impairment of the affected patient. However, it often has taxing effects on the loved ones and caretakers, who make their own respective sacrifices. 

More focus is now being placed on the individuals involved with an Alzheimer's or dementia patients diagnosis. Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer’s Association, mentions that, “It turned out that those who have family or friends with Alzheimer's are really struggling. At least 48% of those we talked to had to cut back on spending on themselves to take care of their loved one."

Fargo was referring to a survey that was conducted, which was distributed to 3,500 Americans who were the family or friends helping out someone they know with Alzheimer’s disease.  They were asked a variety of questions, with the primary focus being how their family member or friend’s condition and the caretaking it required from them was affecting their wallets. 

A key insight discovered by some of the researchers within the survey found that the caregivers were required to fork out roughly $5,155 of their own money in order to care of their loved one. Of those who completed the survey, it was found that the spouses and partners of a patient often felt the greatest setback in terms of how much they were required to spend. The total expenditures for the care they provide their loved one is about $12,000 a year.

A more unfortunate finding from the survey consisted of the fact that caregivers were required to ultimately cut their spending in the realm of their own food purchases. The survey had shown that caregivers were 28 percent more likely to eat a lesser amount or worse, go hungry. In addition to this, the findings showed that these very same caregivers often had to cut 20 percent back on their very own medical care. 

These findings only begin to expose the severe impact that an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis brings with it. Another shocking discovery was that a minimum of 13 percent of those who completed the survey were required to sell their own possessions in order to get by. Alongside these cutbacks, the participants of the survey also reported having to cut back 11 percent of their children’s educational expenditures.

The repercussions show the fiscal impact that is caused for the caregivers of a loved one with this type of dementia. In addition to these financial hardships that these caregivers must encounter, many had to cut back on their work schedules. This also proved to be a hard hitting result of these severe diseases, as can be seen by the fact that 35 percent of the sample that filled out the survey were required to reduce their own work hours. Even worse, some reported having to outright quit their respective jobs or even retire early. Estimated income losses were reported to near $15,000 each year.

Although the conducted survey does well in highlighting the hardships that are very likely to result for the specific sample who filled out the survey, it is not uncommon for the many others across the nation to experience the same unfortunate impact. 

Dr. Pierre Tariot, a geriatric psychiatrist and director of Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, points this out: “We see this all the time in our memory clinic… The findings unveil the family drama that dementia creates: people who have given up careers, cut back on their own medical care, quit traveling, and the like, all to support a loved one. It is common for families to feel burdened, stressed and depressed."

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a condition that has yet to have cure found for it. Every case of the disease demonstrates a gradual decline in the brain’s functions over time. The symptoms associated with the disease commonly include the loss of memory, the inability to focus, and the eventual failure to carry out the simplest of tasks (both mentally and physically). The disease was named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer, a doctor who, in 1906, noticed changes occurring in the brain tissue of a woman who had passed away of an unidentified mental illness

The symptoms he had noticed in the patient included loss of memory, speech problems, as well as unpredictable behavior. Dr. Alzheimer had examined her brain following her death, and discovered various abnormal clumps (now identified as amyloid plaques) and tangled bundles of fibers (known today as neurofibrillary, or tau, tangles). It was because of these findings that research surrounding this complex diagnosis have continued to be researched.

Although the physical effects of Alzheimer’s have been identified, researchers are still attempting to find out what exactly the cause to the disease is. It has been proposed that most cases of the brain disorder occur well before noticeable memory loss occurs, with estimates of damage to the brain being present even a decade or more before memory loss symptoms start to show. Although patients at this time appear to be functioning normally, the brain is undergoing serious alterations, which include abnormal deposits of proteins from amyloid plaques and tau tangles across the brain, with once healthy neurons seeing a decline as these nerve cells die out.

The Future for Caregivers of Alzheimer’s Disease

Various factors will contribute to any sort of potential progress towards bettering the later stages for Alzheimer's and dementia patients. This will in turn prove as a stepping stone for the caregivers who must look after these patients. It is imperative that steps are taken towards doing so, due to the fact that these diseases bring with them very complex symptoms. 

Without special care, especially in the later stages, caretakers are forced to undergo intensive care for their loved ones, bringing about serious repercussions. The solution to this may very well be to create more accessible options for loved ones in terms of homes, as the current price tag can easily surpass $5,000 a month. 

In the meantime, however, awareness must be raised for the patients and the loved ones caring for these patients. To ultimately provide a better, more firm, support system during these difficult times.