Coping Mechanism: How do carers deal with the challenges that come with caring of dementia sufferer? By:
Joy Melanie M. Pacificador
Dementia is a syndrome caused by a disease of the brain that is usually progressive, in which there is impairment of brain functions including the mental ability, personality and behavior. (Bryant &Ouldred, 2008). A diagnosis of dementia can have a devastating effect to the person, their family, and people around them. When a person with dementia finds that their mental abilities are declining, they often feel vulnerable and in need of reassurance and support. The people closest to them - including their carers, friends and family - need to do everything they can to help the person to retain their sense of identity and feelings of self-worth. In a society where mental ill is stigmatized, people with dementia and their carers often feel isolated and marginalized. Dementia is one of the most common diseases that the elderly population of United Kingdom suffers. According to Knapp et al (2007) as cited by Bryant & Ouldred (2008), the estimated number of people living in UK with dementia was around 600,000. It was also stated that 1 in 20 people aged over 65 have dementia and this figure increases to 1 in 5 people aged over 80. This disease is not just found with the elderly population, there is also documentation of the younger generation having this disease. There are currently over 18,000 people under the age of 65 living with dementia in the UK (Harvey et al, 2007). Janicki and Dalton (2007) stated that this figure includes a significant number of people with intellectual impairment who are likely to develop Alzheimer’s at an earlier age than the general population. As the figure rises and considering the nature of the disease in which it usually gets worse slowly, often over many years, and may mean that the person affected can no longer live independently, support for the patient and the family is needed. More often than not, a carer is hired to look after the patient. At the early stage of the disease, most families take care of the patient but as the disease progresses, the patient will be most probably confined to a nursing home. Caring for dementia sufferers is a challenging and demanding job. Most families would probably prefer to look after their disabled relatives for as long as possible at home. However, because dementia is such a slowly progressive condition, by comparison with illnesses such as cancer, the time frame over which care needs to be provided is very long. Without a strong community care system, most families and other carers are hamstrung in their efforts to look after the person with dementia at home (Draper, 2004). Furthermore, informal carers often facilitate the linkages with formal providers, such as physicians, hospitals, community long-term care services, and nursing homes (Pearlin,1993).There was even a study that carers of dementia sufferers have a high prevalence rate of depression. (Saad et al, 1995). Caring for a relative with dementia appears to be associated with adverse effects on caregivers health and some have referred them as "hidden victims" of Alzheimer's disease (Zarit,Orr & Zarit,1985). Most dementing illnesses are progressive, and early symptoms and problems differ markedly from those in later stages. This may simply be a matter of degree. Other symptoms and problems usually develop later in the course of the illness. In the moderate stage of dementia, the dementing person often requires some level of support from other individuals to enable them to maintain their function. It is often in this stage that carer’s begin to realize the full extent of the various demands upon them. While the deteriorating memory function is a problem, it is usually not the main feature that impacts upon the carer. It is more often the personality and behavioral changes that cause the most concern, having the greatest effect on those...
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