Behind just about every senior suffering with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is a caregiver, usually a family member, making sure they are fed and clothed and safe. But who takes care of the caregivers? To find out, WUWF’s Bob Barrett recently sat down with Margaret Jerauld, the Activities Supervisor for the Council on Aging of West Florida.
Jerauld runs support groups for caregivers in various sites around the region. She says many people come to those groups pretty stressed out. "Because they are dealing with their mom or their dad in the early stages of dementia or some sort of physical ailment that they are having to take care of 24-7. They don't know what to do. They're just out there by themselves. So when they come into a group of people that are already dealing with those situations their stress level reduces just knowing that they are not in it alone."
You can find a support group meeting near you at the Council on Aging of West Florida site: CLICK HERE
- Speakers come to the support groups to talk about topics ranging from the latest treatments for Alzheimer's disease to how to convince mom to take a bath.
- Some group meetings are just people swapping stories and experiences, again reinforcing that they are not alone.
- There's usually one person in a family that takes on the bulk of the care giving duties. Perhaps this person has been more organized or is better with money or is just more empathetic. Jerauld says family meetings at the beginning of the process are good. they help sort out who's taking care of who. but things rarely go as planned.
- Most caregivers are older. Jerauld says most of the people in her groups are 60 or older. There are some cases of early onset Alzheimer's where the caregiver may be a bit younger, but those cases are rare.
- Caring with an elder with dementia is very different than caring for someone with a physical disability who may have mobility issues. The main reason: someone who is physically disabled can argue about the care they are getting.
- In the end, most caregivers end up having to put their loved one in a facility. Most feel guilty about that, but Jerauld says both the patient and the caregiver end up getting better care.
- Once a loved one dies, Jerauld says many caregivers continue to come to the meetings.