Why I Care – by Anette Asher, Founder of Care To Caregiver
When I was CEO of the George G. Glenner Alzheimer’s Family Centers (adult day healthcare), I saw firsthand how important it is to care for the caregiver as well as the patient. In my years there, it became painfully clear that there is no focused service-and-support system to help unpaid family caregivers maintain their sanity and health as they care for a loved one.
No other disease devastates the entire family quite like dementia/Alzheimer’s, which leads to three intense incidents of grief with years of lingering and compounding affects.
- The first is the diagnosis – when caregivers learn there is nothing to prevent their loved one from losing their mind and memory.
- The second is when the realization that mom or dad doesn’t know who you are anymore immerses you in helpless anguish.
- The third is when you lose your loved one – a third and final time to death.
These incidents of crushing grief, compounded by years of intense, complex and overwhelming caregiving causes extreme levels of stress, guilt, anger, fear, sadness, powerlessness and illness.
Studies show that caregivers often become ill and depressed, and can predecease their loved one with dementia. Caring for someone with dementia can shorten a life span by up to seven years and permanently damage the Telomere protein, compromising the immune system for life. And the compounding effect doesn’t stop there. I saw daughters in tears as they faced husbands who demanded their mother-in-law be “put away” or else. Seeing so much raw and inconsolable anguish, exhaustion, fear and guilt made me wonder what more could be done to help our caregivers. And I worried for my own family and friends. I felt a strong need to do more.
Most baby boomers do not have the ability or resources to become caregivers. And whether you have children or not, how many have someone who can take care of us when we grow incapable of caring for ourselves? As we age, the need for caregivers grow. Also, by the age of 80, as a natural part of aging, most of us will have some form of dementia.
I was literally scared into action! I knew we had to devise innovative ways to directly support caregivers now.
Support groups are not enough—many caregivers simply don’t have the time or energy. Many work outside the home, have children, live in remote areas, or have other obstacles.
With a strong background in health IT, I knew that technology could be used to empower unpaid family caregivers and lessen their burden. I began researching everything I could find about informal caregivers, their struggles and what is out there to help them.
For a year, I worked nonstop to refine and develop the Care To Caregiver program to help realize this mission:
“When we take care of our unpaid family caregivers, they in turn take better care of their loved ones. A much better quality of life endures—starting with the health and wellbeing of family caregivers.”
In June 2015, being happy with the trajectory I had placed Glenner, it was the right time to spark Care To Caregiver. We are a feisty startup with a critical mission, huge potential and a huge unmet need. With your support, we can move to the next level. Please click our donate button now and tell your friends.
With love and gratitude…thank you, Anette