Alzheimer’s numbers in NJ, and the stress it puts on caregivers
Experts and the families of sufferers agree "it takes a village" to care for someone with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia, but most caregivers are on their own, or at least feel that way.
In an Alzheimer's Association survey released this month, nearly 65 percent of caregivers said they felt isolated or alone in their situation. Eighty-four percent said they'd like more support with tasks, particularly from family.
According to Robyn Kohn, manager of programs for the association's Greater New Jersey chapter, more than 170,000 individuals in the Garden State are affected by Alzheimer's and related brain disorders. The count tops 5 million nationwide.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia.
"There are over 225 clinical trials going on in this country alone," Kohn told New Jersey 101.5. "The more people that enter clinical trials, the more advancements we're going to see."
Kohn pointed to a 24/7 helpline, 800-272-3900, that can serve those with memory loss, as well as their caregivers.
"It's very, very difficult for someone who is a caregiver to take on so many responsibilities — economically, financially and medically — for their loved ones," Kohn said. "And they often do it alone. They don't ask for help because oftentimes that help is not there."
Kohn said there have been plenty of cases in which caregivers have had to abandon their job, or their family for a while, in order to devote enough time to their loved one.
"There are caregivers that are passing on before their loved one because of the tremendous stress that they are under," she said.
In the Alzheimer's Association survey, 74 percent of respondents said they did not help provide care to someone with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia because they felt as though another family had taken on the responsibility. Sixty-four percent said they don't live in the area.
The survey showed Alzheimer's has the power to bring families closer or tear them apart. Relationships between siblings were found to be the most strained, while spouse/partners were strengthened the most from an Alzheimer's diagnosis.
"Having the support of family is everything when you're a dealt a devastating diagnosis such as Alzheimer's," Forked River resident Jeff Borghoff, 53, said in a news release accompanying the survey. "My wife, Kim, has been my rock as we navigate the challenges of Alzheimer's. It's easy to want to shut down following a diagnosis, but that's the time when communication within families is needed most."
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.