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Alzheimer's caregivers in the U.S. number almost 15 million, new study says

March 15, 2011|By Mary Forgione, Tribune Health
(Screen grab from www.alz.org )

An estimated 5.4 million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer's disease. That leads to … 14.9 million unpaid caregivers, $183 billion in annual costs. So begins the latest report from the Alzheimer's Assn.

The report, 2011 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, sheds more light on the toll the disease takes on not just patients but caregivers.

"Unpaid caregivers are primarily family members, but they also include other relatives and friends," the report says. "In 2010, they provided 17 billion hours of unpaid care, a contribution to the nation valued at over $202 billion."

With that commitment to care comes a heavy personal cost. Sixty percent are women and most are older than 55. Sixty-one percent of caregivers reported high to very high emotional stress and 57% reported high to very high physical stress.

And there's more disturbing news about the health of caregivers. "High body mass index (BMI), known to be associated with chronic illnesses, was noted in approximately 66 percent of family caregivers, who were either overweight or obese," the report goes on to say.

There's a lot in this report about the disease and the need for early diagnosis. For caregivers, it underscores the need to spend more time keeping themselves healthy. Yes, something else to add to their already overburdened lives.

But start here at Caregiver.com. The site offers tips on how to cope and resources on support groups in your area. And, most of all, it shows you’re not alone. 

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