Why is caregiving so hard?Jun 19, 2023 02:03PM ● By Laird Landon
Dear Laird: I love my wife. We’ve had a wonderful life. Now I am 80 and she has dementia. I want to care for her myself as long as I can. But why is it so hard? Signed, Arthur
Dear Arthur: I cared for my wife who suffered from dementia for 10 years. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was only after her death, and after I began researching caregiving, that I began to recover from the stress. There are several reasons why caregiving for a loved one is so hard:
We’re living longer. The older we get, the greater the chance of developing dementia. It affects 5% of Americans aged 70-79, 16% of those aged 80-89 and 31% that are 90 and older.
Before 1920, more American families lived together or close by. If a family member was in need, there was almost always someone to care for them. Today, families are dispersed. Children go where the work is and have families of their own.
Today, many couples are working, and women bear children at a later age. This means some working women are caring for school-age children and aging parents at the same time.
Most of us grew up without knowing what dementia was. Alzheimer’s disease wasn’t often diagnosed until the 1980s. Dementia in a family member was often kept under wraps. Few resources were available and our governments provided little help. That is changing, but right now most families still go it alone.
Caring for someone all day every day is physically exhausting.
Emotionally, we struggle with the grief of watching a loved one slowly and continuously lose the ability to function, along with who they are.
We are at the dawn of a new age of caregiving. There is some help available now. The Area Agency on Aging is a great resource for information and assistance. The Alzheimer’s Association website (alz.org) has lots of tips and useful information, and the Colorado chapter facilitates dozens of support groups throughout the state.
Our Caregiver Support Foundation works closely with both to provide support groups, both online and in person. Because family caregiving is lonely and few people understand what we face, we must reach out for help and friendship from other caregivers. Caregiver groups are a lifeline.
Send your questions to Laird in care of the BEACON of email him at [email protected]