Alzheimer's caregivers more likely to develop same disease

Published: Jun. 11, 2015 at 4:04 PM CDT
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A startling statistic is causing concern for caregivers of the 5 million Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

compiled data that shows caregivers of someone with dementia are six times more likely to develop the condition themselves.

Lisa McBride watched the effects of Alzheimer's on her mother, Sybil Stokes.  "She sent the IRS about 20 checks when she should not have, and that's when my father got the bank statement and realized that she couldn't remember that she had made a quarterly payment and had paid it again," said McBride.

Sybil was 75 years old then.  She was active, well-educated, and intellectual.  Lisa's father, Whit, took on the role of caregiver to keep his wife at home.  "My father was adamant about keeping my mother in the home," said McBride.  "He was almost 80 and that soon became apparent that that situation was just not working."

That is a scenario Annette Tritico and Debbie Hayes with the Alzheimer's Association are all too familiar with: caregivers becoming overwhelmed by the burden of this progressive and fatal brain disease.

Five evenings a week, Hayes visits the facility that is now her dad's home.  She feeds him and spends time with him, in the late stages of Alzheimer's.  "It's an overwhelming, devastating disease to watch someone you know deteriorate like that," said Hayes.

That deterioration also affects caregivers.

shows that caregivers of someone with dementia are at a sixfold higher risk of the same fate.  "It could be many factors," said McBride.  "Long-term married people have the same diet, health habits, exercise habits, they have the same stressors, lifestyles.  It can also be attributed to the stress of caring for a loved one and seeing them deteriorate."

That happened to McBride's father.  "We had such a focus on what was going on with my mother, that we really weren't paying attention to my father as much," she said, "and he was exhibiting some signs of early stage Alzheimer's."


is funneling research dollars and resources to

in order to lighten the burden.  Tritico says she is even working with researchers at Stanford University on an app that will give answers to common questions and tips on caregiving.  "This will be quick, it will be very narrowed down education to where you can get your answer quicker," she said.

These ladies, all impacted by this disease, say it really does take a village to care for someone with Alzheimer's, and the time to get a plan is now.  "It is so important that families that have a diagnosis for Alzheimer's or dementia develop a support system early on," said Hayes.  "Plan to have a respite provider, schedule to have relatives come in."

If you are a caregiver in need of support, there is an Alzheimer's Caregiver Support Group that meets three times a month in the Lake Charles area.   Call 337-474-2583 for more information.  Professional and family caregivers are welcome.

There is a need for more researchers and participants to be a part of Alzheimer's clinical studies.

to connect with Trial Match.

Mark your calendar for this year's Walk to End Alzheimer's.  It is happening Saturday, October 31 at the Lake Charles Civic Center Amphitheater.

for more information.

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