I am witnessing the stress my family caregivers have undergone. Taking care of a loved one with Alzheimers is a feat of superhuman strength. My uncle has Alzheimers. Even though both my aunt and uncle have moved into senior housing, my aunt feel she has to be the primary caregiver. My aunt is unable to stop putting my uncles needs before her own. It seems to me when you're a caregiver taking care of a loved one with memory issues, it takes longer and is more difficult, to ask for help.
I attended a seminar about caregiver stress at Open Circle Day Program in Hopkins, Minnesota. Dr. Joseph E Gaugler was speaking about navigating a move to residential care. He shared some very interesting results from the New York University Caregiver Intervention Study. In brief, the study set out to determine the stress a caregiver experiences before, during, and after the placement of a loved one in residential care. The "Intervention" as they called it in the study, were services provided to caregivers. Those services included support groups, and on-call counselors available to help them through the hurdles.
The attendees at the seminar were primarily caregivers. Therefore, the results of the study where no surprise to them. When caregivers received intensive multi-modal support, it delayed the admission of the loved one into a care community. It ALSO reduced the stress of the caregiver markedly AFTER the admission. Ask anyone acting as a caregiver, and they'll tell you the stress doesn't go away when your loved one is admitted into a community, it just changes. Stress resulting from guilty feelings, to supervising the care given in the community, to finding time to visit all contributes to ongoing stress.
An opportunity to help caregivers after the move
So then, the question to the professionals who work with seniors and their caregivers is: What are you doing to support caregivers both before and after they move a loved one into a care community?
You can read the results of the New York University Caregiver Intervention study here.