A new report from the Alzheimer’s Association details some of the difficulties Iowa’s 100,000 unpaid caregivers experience while trying to navigate dementia care for a loved one or friend.

Lauren Livingston, spokeswoman for the association’s Iowa chapter, says it’s an intricate juggling act that requires patience and the ability to work with multiple doctors, to secure appointments, and to find appropriate doctors in the first place.

“About 70% of caregivers report that coordinating care is stressful, and over half say that navigating the healthcare system is difficult,” Livingston says. “We know dementia caregivers have more stress, face more depression and chronic health issues, and navigating care for their loved one just adds to that.”

The cost of care is another tremendous worry. The report estimates the cost of caring for people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias will reach $360-billion this year, a $15-billion increase from a year ago. She notes, that figure does -not- include unpaid care provided by family caregivers and friends.

“Last year in Iowa, family caregivers provided 125-million hours of unpaid care valued at over $2.2 billion,” Livingston says. “That’s really hard to wrap your head around, especially if you think about the fact there’s only 100,000 family caregivers providing all of these hours and value of care. That just really shows the burden of caregiving.”

The report finds 60% of healthcare workers surveyed believe the U.S. healthcare system is not effectively helping patients and their families navigate dementia care.

“The Alzheimer’s Association is advocating state lawmakers for funding for a Dementia Service Specialist Program,” Livingston says, “and that would help families with a lot of these care navigation needs, including finding doctors, making appointments, and finding local care and support.”

The report estimates 6.9 million people age 65 and older in the U.S. are living with Alzheimer’s, and over 11 million loved ones are providing care. In Iowa, more than 62,000 people are living with the disease, and there are nearly 100,000 caregivers.

Radio Iowa