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Research Snapshot: Support for caregivers of memory loss patients

Alzheimer’s and other memory loss diseases influence more than those who suffer from the disease. According to the Alzheimers Association, family and friends of those with memory loss provide 17.9 billion hours of unpaid care. Nearly 60 percent of these caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high.

When caregivers are stressed, it directly affects the health of the person they are trying to help. It can also worsen mental health of the caregiver, impair their immune system, and speed up placement of their loved one in a residential care setting.

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Research Snapshot: Support for unpaid memory loss caregivers in Minnesota key

U of M researchers investigate the effectiveness of an intervention aimed at providing care to Minnesota’s caregivers.

The Alzheimer’s Association has said for every one person affected by Alzheimer’s disease or dementia in the United States, three family members are also affected.

For the 94,000 Minnesotans over the age of 65 living with some form of dementia, that means an additional 243,000 individuals and counting are in some way involved in unpaid care.

These individuals are often spouses or adult children, the latter often having additional care responsibilities in addition to helping a parent with memory loss.

Simply put by University of Minnesota memory loss and caregiving expert Joseph Gaugler, Ph.D., “Families are the frontline of dementia care.”

Investigating a better way

In an effort to help reduce some of the challenges and stress that caregivers can face, a recent study led by Gaugler, an associate professor and McKnight Presidential Fellow in the U of M’s School of Nursing, investigated better care for Minnesota’s unpaid caregivers.

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School of Nursing to host memory loss caregiver public education event this Saturday

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 94,000 Minnesotans over the age of 65 are living with Alzheimer’s. Another 243,000 Minnesotans care for an individual with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. The total cost of care associated with such conditions in Minnesota is $3.57 billion annually.

Unpaid caregivers provide the majority of care to patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, and more than 60 percent of those caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high. Worse, more than one-third of such caregivers report symptoms of depression.

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