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Lack of practical arrangements increase stress for Alzheimer's carers - survey

A lack of clear legal and financial arrangements for those caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease increasing stress and puts a strain on family relationships, a new survey indicates.

Image: GE Healthcare via Creative Commons/Flickr

SEVENTY-FIVE PER CENT of people who care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease say the sharing of duties puts strain on family relationships, with 67 per cent experiencing difficulty in securing a commitment from others regarding the sharing of care.

The findings of a survey examining the emotional and financial impact associated with caring for someone with the disease were revealed at the launch of MyPeaceofMind.ie, a new website developed to provide practical tools and advice for those living with Alzheimer’s disease and their carers.

Some 57 per cent of respondents said a loved one’s illness had impacted the financial stability of their family, and 34 per cent said the financial burden of putting a relative into a home was the main reason they had not considered doing so.

A startling 75 per cent of respondents said their loved one had not created an enduring power of attorney which clearly set out their wishes as the disease progresses.

“It is totally understandable that financial and legal planning is put on the back burner when a loved one receives an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis however, this can have very significant implications in the longer term,” said personal finance expert Jill Kerby. ”Engaging a solicitor to create an enduring power of attorney can go a long way to helping you to plan for the future.”

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive degenerative brain disease that affects the memory and – eventually – a person’s ability to care for themselves and live independently. Approximately 44,000 people in Ireland are living with some form of dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease being the most common form (accounting for 66 per cent of all cases).

The progressive nature of the disease can have a serious impact on a carer’s life as the level of care and emotional toll increases over time, the survey indicated. Some 41 per cent of carers said that they felt frustrated most or all of the time, 34 per cent said they felt physically drained, and 21 per cent of suffered from stress, nervousness or panic attacks.

“If you are a carer of somebody with Alzheimer’s disease, it is critical that you put your own health first. In addition to your physical health, it is important to also manage your emotional wellbeing,” said Dr Nina Byrnes, GP at Oakwood Medical Clinic.

She advised carers to educate themselves on the condition and to be “realistic” about what they can expect in the future in terms of the disease progression and levels of care they can provide. “It can be incredibly sad to see a loved one affected by Alzheimer’s disease, so maintaining a positive outlook and focusing on the small glimpses of the person you love can be helpful,” she added.

The group also reminded people that the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can often be confused with general ageing, and underlined the importance organising a GP visit if there is any concern as early diagnosis is critical to ensuring the best possible clinical outcome.

Read: Rare gene mutation might defend against Alzheimer’s disease>

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