Alzheimer’s and other dementias take toll on caregiver’s health

Reporter: Amy Oshier
Published: Updated:

Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia affect not only the person diagnosed but loved ones, too.

The disease takes a significant toll on families and caregivers.

A video was recently shared of Bruce Willis celebrating his first birthday since he was diagnosed with dementia.

While the moment looks happy, Willis’ wife took to social media to speak about how hard it is every day to cope with his diagnosis.

“I do have times of sadness every day, grief every day, and I’m really feeling it today on his birthday,” said Emma Heming Willis.

A new report reveals the risk of severe health consequences for people caring for loved ones with these degenerative diseases.

Melody’s smile lights up the room.

It’s the last glimmer Kevin Svagdis sees of his wife.

Her frontotemporal dementia is progressing so quickly that he loses more of her daily.

“She lost her ability to communicate verbally first. And then it seems like almost every week or every two weeks, there was something else she wouldn’t do or couldn’t do,” Svagdis said.

Svagdis has help to handle Melody’s round-the-clock care.

It’s a huge job many are shouldering in Florida.

About 182,000 people care for someone with Alzheimer’s or other dementias.

And studies show that caretakers are not all right.

In the home, stress and fatigue are constant. Coupled with intense caregiving, it’s hurting the health of caretakers.

“Sixty-six percent of Florida caregivers have at least one of the chronic conditions. And we’re seeing that depression is coming across as one of the bigger ones. So it’s 29% of Florida caregivers report are reporting having depression,” said Stephanie Wardlow, with the Florida Alzheimer’s Association.

Wardlow said this data serves as a wake-up call.

“We as individuals want to think that we are super, we have superpowers and that we can do is all on our own. And maybe in the beginning, we can. But as time goes on, you know, and as your bucket gets full you need support,” Wardlow said.

Svagdis launched a business providing companions for people with dementia, that way; everyone gets the care they need.

“You gotta make time for yourself, carve that out, and hold it precious because the end goal is you have to be at top performance to help care for your loved one,” Svagdis said.

His reward is finding peace of mind in the time they spend together.

There are many resources to help caregivers in Southwest Florida. From support groups, even virtual ones, and daycare opportunities to give loved ones a break. The Alzheimer’s Association keeps a list of them all. You can call them at 1-800-272-3900 to see what help is available.

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