In 2015, more than 15 million family caregivers provided an estimated 18.1 billion hours of unpaid care, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. They sacrifice vacations, time and money to provide round-the-clock care for their loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s. At some point, though, these caregivers need care themselves, which is why Patti Davis created Beyond Alzheimer’s.
Davis started the weekly support group five years ago after she experienced being a caregiver for her father, former President Ronald Reagan. Davis was always asked how her father was doing, but only rarely did someone ask about how she was faring.
In a moving Q&A titled You’re Taking Care of Someone With Alzheimer’s, but Who Is Taking Care of You? , Davis spoke candidly with Los Angeles Times reporter Rene Lynch about the toll of caregiving.
“Caregiver stress is a very real thing,” Davis told Lynch.
“People come [to the support group] for the first time and they’re armed with all these facts about their mother or their father. And then I say to them, ‘How are you doing?’ And there’s this moment where they have to process the question and, almost inevitably, that’s when the tears come,” Davis told the reporter.
That stress led her to start the group, which meets at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif. There, she co-facilitates with a neurologist, a neuropsychologist or a guest speaker who offer participants perspectives and information.
“I wanted to do it at a hospital because it’s symbolic,” David said to Lynch. “The family members and caregivers should be treated as patients. It adds a lot of power to that message if you’re physically sitting at a hospital.”
To read the full interview, click here.