Facing Alzheimer's: The Caregivers' Challenge

By Sean Corcoran

The Alzheimer's caregivers’ story is often one of sustained stress, exhaustion and isolation. Rates of depression among caregivers of Alzheimer's patients are higher than for non-caregivers. Incidence of poor nutrition and chronic disease are higher than people without the burden of 24-hour care-giving.

For people with little support from friends and friends, the disease brings the loss of a loved one, as well as significant financial obstacles for people without the resources to pay for home health aides and other types of custodial and respite care. WCAI's Sean Corcoran explores the challenges of caring for Massachusetts' more than 120,000 Alzheimers' patients.

Related: Our award-winning two-part report on Massachusetts venture capitalists fueling Alzheimer's research, from November 2010


Part 1: Plight Of The Caregivers  (sound + transcript)
LISTEN

Barbara Meehan is one of about 15 million unpaid Alzheimer's caregivers in the nation. It's estimated there's about 320,000 in Massachusetts. They're often lonely, emotionally worn and physically exhausted, because caregivers live in a world where the air is thick with loss. They witness the slow collapse of memory and personality. And there's also the looming loss that's sure to come.  
 


Part 2: Planning For Loss  (sound + transcript)
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The Noonan family knows too well what it's like to watch a loved one die of Alzheimer's: Their mother had it, and passed it on to at least four of her ten children. They say advanced planning, although painful, has been key to helping the family handle the disease.  

Video: An Alzheimer's Patient's End-Of-Life Wishes


Part 3: Caring Places  (sound + transcript)
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The goal of many people with Alzheimer's disease and their families is to find a way for the person to spend their final days in their home. Oftentimes the burdens associated with the disease makes that impossible, but a new kind of assisted-living home for the memory-impaired offers an alternative to the traditional nursing home.
 


Part 4: Art Therapy For Alzheimer's  (sound + transcript)
LISTEN

The goal of many people with Alzheimer's disease and their families is to find a way for the person to spend their final days in their home. Oftentimes the burdens associated with the disease makes that impossible, but a new kind of assisted-living home for the memory-impaired offers an alternative to the traditional nursing home.
 


Part 5: Supporting the Caregivers  (sound + transcript)
LISTEN

A new electronic monitoring system is about to be implemented to find wandering people on Cape Cod — a region with one of the highest population of elders in the country.  And a new kind of assisted-living home for the memory-impaired offers an alternative to the traditional nursing home.

 


Extra Features:

The Point with Mindy Todd from June 22, 2011: Facing Alzheimer’s: The Caregivers’ Challenge
LISTEN

Half-hour call-in program hosted by WCAI's Mindy Todd. WCAI Senior Reporter Sean Corcoran talks about his week-long series on the people who care for those with Alzheimer’s disease. We also talk with Barbara Meehan, a caregiver in Wareham, and Molly Perdue, Director of Family Services at Alzheimer’s Services of the Cape and Islands.


Listener Essay
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WGBH’s Elizabeth Ross heard our series, and it prompted her to reflect on what happened when her mother was recently diagnosed with the disease.
 

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