Hollywood can be a great platform to provide mass exposure to many of the issues and challenges that plague society. It’s like the cliché, “art imitates life.” For example, the film Still Alice portrays some of the challenges families endure when one family member suffers from the Alzheimer’s disease. The success of the film, and the awards won by its leading lady, Julianne Moore, have brought awareness of these trials to the forefront of society. However, when the lights of the theatre dissipate and the box office numbers dwindle, the real-life caregivers and their challenges with their Alzheimer’s patients continue.
New research has demonstrated that there is a growing population of caregivers who are managing the dual role of working full-time and providing full-time care for a person with Alzheimer’s disease. These caregivers essentially live a double life. The way the American health care system is currently set up, it is expected that a family member will provide the primary care for an individual affected by Alzheimer’s disease. This expectation of family caregiving leads to issues for caregivers who must maintain full-time employment when tasked with providing primary care for a relative with Alzheimer’s disease.
During much of my research on this topic, I found extraordinary numbers of baby boomers who are currently facing this challenge of managing the dual role of full-time employee and full-time caregiver. Sadly, I have also personally lived this challenge as I was a sharing the responsibility with my brother and my mother for caring for my father who had Alzheimer’s disease.
During the seven years that remained in my dad’s life, both my brother and I lived through some tough trials. We were caring for two older adults: one with Alzheimer’s (our dad) and our mother who was his primary caregiver. Mom did whatever she could for dad, until my brother and I arrived at the house to support her. The other challenge my brother and I faced was trying to maintain our full-time careers and family life while looking after our parents.
Working caregivers need help
At first glance, full-time care in a nursing home or memory care community may seem like the most appropriate option for someone with Alzheimer’s. But, as was the case with my family, many cannot afford care in such facilities.
Many times, when someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it is a relative who steps up to become the primary caregiver. The three of us (me, my mom and brother) made the decision to endure the challenge of home care for my father, until his final 90 days of life. It was only when we could no longer provide medical treatment that we resulted to the care of a nursing home. The times I had to manage with my father alone were very difficult. I had to take leave from work to get him to doctor’s visits or help my mother manage his behavior.
There are many caregivers out there who are managing the dual role of working full-time and providing full-time care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or another disease. It is a challenging job. Working caregivers must seek out as much help as possible. Do not try to endure the challenge alone. Let friends and family know that you need assistance. And even though it may not be a conversation you want to have, talking to your boss about caregiving is important. Working caregivers must continue to give voice to their challenges.
April 21, 2015 by Dr. Keith Washington, an expert, author and adult advocate, writes for AgingCare.com.