When it comes to caring for someone with dementia, the challenges are many and can engender harmful emotions, not only from the ailing patient but from the caregivers themselves. It’s a stressful job. It takes patience, commitment and the ability to recognize the emotional toll of being a caregiver. More importantly, it takes a willingness to seek help when needed.
Sheryl O’Neal, director of client services at Home Care Assistance of Charleston, said as more family members take on the role of dementia caregivers, the experiences and emotional realities of caregiving are shifting dramatically.
“People often don’t realize the difficulty of caring for a family member with dementia and the extreme stress it can cause,” she said.
While everyone copes with challenges differently, dementia caregivers share some of the same problems – guilt, resentment, anger, worry and even loneliness.
“Imagine being a family member taking care of a loved one with this disease and having to watch their decline,” O’Neal said. “It’s challenging to provide daily care for someone without dementia, but when it’s for someone with dementia, the challenge is even greater.”
Home Care Assistance, a non-medical in-home care provider for seniors, has grown quickly since its inception and offers unparalleled services.
“This company was started 15 years ago in California by a husband and wife team and very quickly went nationwide. They knew this type of care was important and that it could be done better,” she added.
The Charleston office opened in 2007 and has seen rapid growth over the last 10 years.
“There are approximately 47.5 million people living with dementia worldwide,” O’Neal explained. “And that number is expected to triple by 2050.”
With the expected rise of dementia, the need for more caregivers who specialize in this type of service is crucial. Home Care Assistance helps fill that need.
“We can help get clients up and showered in the morning, prep meals, do light housekeeping, take them on walks or to their appointments. We do everything that a family member would be expected to do,” she said.
While many family members take on the role of caregiver, dealing with dementia is much more difficult. Dementia caregivers are seven times more likely to experience physical, emotional and mental exhaustion than other caregivers.
“Many caregivers experience burnout,” O’Neal added. “We have to be mindful of that, and, when we provide the assistance, we have to make sure we match the right people with each client.”
O’Neal said having the right providers on board is a process they take very seriously, with intense vetting done on each person looking to work with Home Care Assistance.
“We do background checks, random drug screening and we look at driving records. We go nationwide looking at a person’s background.”
Having caregivers who are trained in caring for a loved one with dementia within the comfort of their own home can make the experience much less stressful.
“Ninety percent of seniors surveyed would prefer to be cared for at home than in an overcrowded and understaffed facility. We come to them to help, and just our presence alone can make a significant difference, not only in their lives but in their family’s as well.”