Country music icon Glen Campbell recently revealed that he has Alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately, he is one of 5.4 million Americans living with the incurable illness.
Fortunately, his care and medical needs aren’t likely to be a burden for his family and friends, a small but significant comfort in the coming months. That’s not the case for the 15 million family members who serve as unpaid caregivers for loved ones with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Last year, 17 billion hours of unpaid care valued at $202.6 billion was provided by these unsung heroes. For some, the responsibility of care goes without saying; others simply have no choice. The reality is that Alzheimer’s crosses socioeconomic boundaries and ethnicities, and every family affected has to make critical and often painful decisions regarding care for their family members.
Baby boomers have been particularly hard-hit with difficult decisions regarding caregiving. As our parents age, the risk of dementia increases. We’re often challenged by earning a living to feed our own family while trying to financially and/or emotionally support an elderly parent. The situation becomes even more complicated when separated by geography or family dynamics. We want to make decisions based on facts and what’s best for our loved one, but we’re often overwhelmed.
We also don’t want to completely wreak havoc on our lifestyle, break the bank, or denigrate our family unit. What can we do to ensure our loved ones are properly cared for? If we assume a caregiver role, how do we know the right and wrong things to do? And how can we be confident in our decisions so that we’re at peace with ourselves?
Help line offers latest data
In this part of the state, the Midsouth Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association serves the community in a number of ways, including a 24-hour help line, private-care consultations, support groups facilitated by trained volunteers, educational and training opportunities and a host of other local resources designed to assist caregivers. These services are at no cost to the community, yet their value is immeasurable in helping people navigate the difficult journey of providing care for those afflicted with the disease.
Baby boomers especially thrive on the latest data and multiple resources. The knowledge and options found through our organization empower people to share information, learn from others, and contribute to the greater cause of easing the burden of caregiving for everyone.
Glen Campbell will always be known for his contributions to country music, and we wish him all the best. Hopefully, our loved ones with Alzheimer’s and dementia will be remembered for their impact on our lives in better times.
It’s our responsibility to take advantage of all available resources so that we can travel this difficult journey well-guided and well-informed.
The Tennessean | tennessean.com
Glenda Berry is CEO of the Midsouth Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association