Navigating Alzheimer’s as a Caregiver

Navigating Alzheimer’s as a Caregiver
Claire Webster, 2/5/2017
Alzheimer’s Disease is more prevalent now than ever before, and many over the age of 55 are getting diagnosed with early onset symptoms. Per the Alzheimer’s Association, there are currently more than 5 million Americans who are living with dementia, and it is the 6th leading cause of death. A tremendous amount of attention has also been placed on the roles and responsibilities of the caregivers and the challenges that they face while caring for a loved one. Alzheimer’s is a disease that has been around for quite some time, yet, there's still a stigma associated with it that inhibits suffering families to seek out the support they may need.

In September, 2006 Alzheimer’s disease threw a curve ball in to my life when my mother was diagnosed at the age of 74. I was 38 years old, my three children were very young and I was working full-time. In addition, I was still grieving over the loss of my father. The weight of the responsibilities to now care for my mother rested solely on my shoulders because I do not have any siblings to help carry the burden. There was no “prescription” as to how, where, when, or who could assist me in managing this disease. I was completely unfamiliar with any of the symptoms, expectations, challenges that she, and inevitably I, would face in caring for her. As compared to other diagnosed diseases, the family is rarely presented with a “road map” of how to navigate the challenges that are associated with managing and living with this disease. I became caught up in a cyclone of caring for my mother that would last for the next 5 years until I suffered a severe nervous breakdown in July of 2011. I had placed unrealistic expectations upon myself and thought I could do it all without any help from anyone. The truth is, I desperately wanted and needed help but I had no idea where to find it and I was far too stubborn to ask.

This journey has lead me to pursue a passion as a Professional Alzheimer Care Consultant. I have met and continue to meet numerous individuals in my position who have lived similar journeys. The common thread among all of us is that we wish that there could have been a professional helping us plan to be able to obtain the type of support that we need.

My personal experience with Alzheimer’s has taught me that seeking support and becoming educated about the disease from the very beginning would have had a profoundly greater impact on the quality of care that my mother received as well as the level of stress that I endured as a caregiver.

Alzheimer’s, dementia, and related disorders have no cure yet – and as the population ages and more people are diagnosed, we need to ensure that the public become better educated about how to handle these diseases.
Claire Webster

Claire Webster

Claire Webster is an Alzheimer Care Consultant, as well as Lecturer, Spokesperson, Mentor and Advocate in the field of Alzheimer’s disease. She is President of Caregiver Crosswalk Inc, a consulting firm that she founded to help families navigate the journey of Alzheimer’s disease. Passionate about philanthropy, Claire is a Community Outreach Ambassador, and is involved in fundraising and volunteering initiatives with numerous charitable organizations.