Current News



Alzheimer's report highlights immense caregiver burden -- and potential ways forward

Hanna Webster, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in News & Features

PITTSBURGH — Some 7 million Americans live with Alzheimer's, and about 11 million provide unpaid care for them.

Dementia caregiving can present unique challenges, including financial burdens and time constraints, as well as health complications.

A report this year from the Alzheimer's Association demonstrates the true cost of caregiving for those with the disease and calls to establish dementia care navigation throughout the U.S. to lift this burden.

Not only is the estimated value of unpaid care near $14 billion in Pennsylvania alone, the report also revealed emotional and physical tolls. Nearly 77% of Alzheimer's caregivers in the commonwealth reported a chronic health condition and a third reported depression.

Alzheimer's was the fifth-leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2021. Prior to death, years are spent with health challenges and progressive deterioration from the disease.

"Most caregivers do fairly well in their role and report high levels of reward, but there is a small selection that experience adverse effects," said Jennifer Wolff, a professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, specializing in older adult and caregiver quality of life. Those with issues tend to be providing high levels of care, she said. Wolff was not involved in the research.


"These results raise a number of challenges," said Wolff. "We currently do not have system-level solutions."

The report pulled data from dozens of databases and thousands of journal articles about dementia, caregiving, health, and economic costs. It examined metrics related to caregiver well-being and Alzheimer's disease projections over time, as well as solutions moving forward to address the crisis, namely bolstering dementia care navigation and easing access to resources. It encouraged private insurers and health systems to directly address dementia and dementia caregiving and called for better financial incentives for caregiving to expand the workforce.

More than half of caregivers reported "high" or "very high" emotional stress due to their roles.

"Dementia caregiving as a whole is very stressful and taxing," said Wolff. It can involve bearing witness to an array of behavioral changes and inconsistencies, including wandering, agitation, combativeness and, of course, memory lapses.


swipe to next page

(c)2024 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


blog comments powered by Disqus