Finding Balance: Advice for Caregivers Caring for Seniors with Alzheimer’s

Test Your Stroke IQ 02/09/2015

More and more adult children are finding themselves in the position of caregiver for a parent with Alzheimer’s disease.  Juggling work and family responsibilities while trying to keep a loved one with dementia safe and cared for is a very difficult balancing act.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 15.5 million Americans are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.  In 2013, those family caregivers provided a total of 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care.  If families had to pay for that care, the national cost of care would top $220 billion.  That all adds up to a lot of families struggling to find balance.

Balancing Personal Caregiving Responsibilities with Professional Work Responsibilities

A study of human resources professionals revealed just how much work time is lost due to the demands and duties of caregiver for the elderly.  About 21% of employees who take a sick day actually do so to care for the needs of a senior loved one.

If you are finding it increasingly difficult to juggle your professional responsibilities with your caregiver responsibilities, here are a few tips that might be of help:

  1. Call your local agency on aging office to talk with one of their advisors about the caregiver resources for support that are available in your community. There might be an adult day program that offers transportation or a friendly visitor program where volunteers come in to the home to sit with older adults who aren’t safe alone. The National Association of Agencies on Aging can help you locate the office closest to you.
  2. Review your company benefits program to determine if you have an Employee Assistance Program, also known as an EAP. Many of these programs have elder care assistance benefits. These experienced counselors might be able to help you locate support services you may not otherwise find.
  3. Consider using respite care once or twice a month. Many dementia care assisted living programs offer respite. It will allow you time to take a break and know your loved one is safe in the hands of Alzheimer’s experts. Respite can also be a good way to give an assisted living community a trial run.
  4. Join a support group of your peers. It often gives Alzheimer’s caregivers a good way to blow off steam and share their frustrations in an environment where people understand and empathize with your struggle. If the demands on your time won’t allow you to attend an in-person support group meeting, there are plenty of online Alzheimer’s caregiver forums. Members find they offer just as many benefits as personal meetings.
  5. If your aging parent’s condition has reached the point where they require full-time care, you may be able to take a leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). It can provide you with up to 12 weeks unpaid leave to care for a family member and assume your caregiver duties and responsibilities. That will give you the time you need to search for a dementia care community for your senior loved one and get them safely settled.

Finally, if you need more information to help you in your search for a dementia care community, the Assisted Living Federation of America developed this Guide to Choosing an Assisted Living Community.  It offers advice on what to look for and ask when you visit senior living communities.