Confronting a Difficult Challenge: Determinants of Resilience among Alzheimer’s Caregivers By Elliot Breslav

Abstract-

This study investigated factors influencing resiliency among caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients. The researcher visited Alzheimer’s support groups and attended Alzheimer’s walks to obtain the sample population for this project. There exists a significant relationship between the level of involvement of care and resiliency, as those most involved in caregiving demonstrated the highest levels of resilience. Caregivers, who indicated higher levels of support from family members and friends, also expressed higher levels of resilience. Taking care of one’s health was a significant factor of resiliency among Alzheimer’s caregivers. While the living location of the Alzheimer’s patient did not impact the caregiver’s level of resilience, gender proved to be a significant factor as females demonstrated not only higher levels of resilience as caregivers, but also reported higher levels of involvement and support.


Introduction-

How do you interact with your family if you forget about them? Caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients know the answer to this question all too well. The effects Alzheimer’s disease include mental decline, difficulty thinking and understanding, confusion in the evening hours, delusion, disorientation, forgetfulness, making things up, mental confusion, difficulty concentrating, inability to create new memories, inability to recognize common things, aggression, irritability, meaningless repetition of own words, personality changes, lack of restraint, and wandering. This condition certainly appears daunting for someone who must deal with some or many of these symptoms. Alzheimer’s just does not affect the patient, research has indicated caregivers suffer too. The caregivers of Alzheimer’s victims suffer from social isolation and a lack of time for themselves and their other loved ones (S.H. Zarit & J.M. Zarit, 2010); this hurts not only the Alzheimer’s victim, but also family and friends of the victim. Caregivers suffer from a sense of burden (S.H. Zarit & J.M. Zarit, 2010), but the resilience of the caregivers is a topic which requires further investigation. The resilience of caregivers is an extremely important topic as it deals with an individual’s ability to adapt and react towards challenging situations.

One in every eight baby boomers, from the post-World War II era, can expect to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (Baker, 2011); this will lead to 10 million diagnoses and impact over 10 million caregivers. Resilience of caregivers becomes an extremely important topic as caregivers monitor and support their loved one’s disease, and at the same time continue to face the everyday challenges of their familial and work lives. Studies such as Pratt’s, Burden and Coping Strategies of Caregivers to Alzheimer’s Patients, offers caregivers and their families assistance concerning how to cope to the lifestyle changes that occur as caregivers. Social support becomes an important factor for caregivers who are resilient (Scott E. Wilks & Beth Croom, 2007). The resilience of caregivers of Alzheimer’s victims is important for the family who must work together to meet the changing demands of their group.

This paper is different from other studies because it does not focus on the burden of families when they care for Alzheimer’s patients. Instead, this paper investigates factors influencing resilience among caregivers of Alzheimer’s victims. One major factor influencing resilience according to Scott, K.E.(2013), is the level of support that caregivers need, while they 2 juggle family obligations and work. People with Alzheimer’s disease might live up to 20 years, but during those years, the nature of the disease changes and their health becomes progressively more debilitating. Caregivers become more involved in the healthcare of their loved ones, and often experience loneliness and depression. Not all caregivers need to follow this path as individuals from support groups often cite the positive feedback they receive from family members and friends who support them during this difficult time (Scott, K.E. 2013).

Scott’s study (2013) supported the positive effect of taking care of one’s health during times of stress. Caregivers often suffer from poor health because they are either overwhelmed by family and work obligations, or they feel social isolation while caring for their friend or relative (Pratt, 1985). Moreover, Pratt has found through her research the longer a caregiver is involved in the caregiving process, the greater negative impact on their personal health experiences. Involvement in the actual decision making processes of the Alzheimer’s patient may also increase the connection and participation of the caregiver. Studies (Hubbell, L., & Hubbell, K. 2002; Legget, A.N., Zarit, S., Taylor, A., & Gavin, J.E. 2010) examining the roles of caregivers, support a more engaged individual in the caregiving role. This can be seen in the various roles of caregivers who communicate with doctors and nurses, make appointments, pick up prescriptions, and arrange for care.

Resilience is a trait that can be very valuable to an individual and to his or her family when the role of caregiving becomes a central part of their lives. This paper is unique because it investigates what factors impact and individual’s ability to be not only a caregiver, but also an active and viable father, mother, sister, or brother. Interestingly, children can also find comfort and support when their parents are more resilient as they care for a grandparent with Alzheimer’s disease. Children often misunderstand the behavior of Alzheimer’s patients, and it is difficult for them to realize that grandparents might forget who they are. Unfortunately, students seldom approach a school counselor with the words, “My grandma has Alzheimer’s and I’m confused.” (Magnuson,1999). Resiliency among caregivers can make parents more adept at monitoring the everyday actions of the household, and address hardships family members might be experiencing.

The purpose of this study is to investigate factors, which impact the resiliency of caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients. While acknowledging the challenges caregivers of 3 Alzheimer’s patients face on a daily basis, it is also important to examine what factors enable them to not only care for their loved one who has Alzheimer’s, but also continue to live a meaningful and connected life.


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