‘It’s emotionally and physically draining. It’s very hard’: mental toll of caring for loved one with Alzheimer’s

Published: May. 18, 2023 at 3:31 PM CDT|Updated: May. 21, 2023 at 10:13 PM CDT
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SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - Currently in Louisiana, there are 92,000 people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and that number will increase by 20% in the next two years.

About 40% to 50% of caregivers end up passing away before the person their caring for due to not prioritizing their own health and wellbeing.

Laura Gauthier, a counselor and program director at The Bridge, speaks about the how taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s can be difficult, overwhelming and emotionally draining.

“They’re slowly watching their person become a shell of a person, and it’s very hard for them to watch their once thriving person become someone who is just...just there,” Gauthier explained.

Many caregivers will go through a depression or anxiety phase in the beginning because they are seeing a loved one slowly lose their grip on reality. Caregivers frequently report experiencing high levels of stress in conjunction with burnout, feeling like they are in the situation alone.

“People are trying to take care of their people at home, but with doing that, they are putting themselves at risk because they are trying to do everything that two people used to do,” Gauthier said.

Alzheimer’s and dementia, although not often understood by many, will continue to be a growing problem for our society.

“There is eight other different dementias, and that number is going to increase by 20% in two years. And it’s because we are living longer. And it’s great that we are living longer,” Gauthier said.

“But our brains are not able to keep up with the society that we live in right now because we are in a multi-tasking society, and our brains were not meant to do four or five things at a time. We are only able to do one or two max things at a time and so our brains are overworked, overloaded and tired.”

Virginia Disotell, who has been caring for her sister that has Alzheimer’s, has had a difficult journey.

“It’s emotionally and physically draining; it’s very hard. Because her reality, her perception and the way she thinks, is so contrary. She’ll say something that I know is not true, and for the longest, I would try to correct her, which would only frustrate her and both of us, her and me. But through training and through support groups with The Bridge, I have learned that you do not try to correct the person. You say ‘Oh, I didn’t realize that,’” Disotell said.

She says that educating herself was a key factor in understanding what she was dealing with and acknowledging that there is an issue that must be addressed.

Gauthier says a lot of caregivers think they’re alone in their journey, but there are support groups in place to help them and offer advice.

There are nine groups all over Shreveport-Bossier that meet once a month at different facilities, including one at the bridge that meets the second Thursday at 2 p.m. For more information on groups, you can call the bridge alzheimer’s and dementia at 318-656-4800 and they can mail you the list of groups.