As the primary caregiver for my father during the last eight years of his life, I know only too well the personal challenges and rewards caregivers and their families experience. But when we realize that in 2009, 62 million family caregivers provided over $450 billion in care, we see that the personal challenges of caregiving also have significant public policy implications.
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's or dementia can be a sad, lonely and often frustrating struggle. It could be Mom or Dad, or a grandparent or beloved uncle, who begins to lose his or her grip on the world. They may speak and act strangely, forget familiar names and people, wander or get lost, regress to their childhood, or withdraw fully into themselves.
The fastest growing segment of the American population is adults over the age of 85, and when you carefully test that population you can detect some degree of cognitive impairment in 40 to 50 percent of them. That's not synonymous with loss of decision-making ability, but it places our older loved ones at greater risk!