Lee Anne Hyatt is on a mission to help the often-forgotten caregiver of those suffering from dementia. Dementia, she recently explained, is not part of normal aging, but it is on the rise. Currently, 55 million people are living with dementia, and that number is expected to rise to 78 million by 2030, according to a recent article on reuters.com.
“Dementia is not one disease,” explained Hyatt, “It is a collection of symptoms that can be caused by a number of disorders that affect the brain’s function. It is an umbrella diagnosis that can include Alzheimer’s, which is the cause of about 60% of cases, and Lewy Body, which comprises another 17%. Other diseases that cause dementia include Pick’s Disease, Huntington’s Chorea, Alcoholism, and HIV.”
Caring for those who are suffering from this horrible affliction requires vigilance 24 hours a day, seven days a week because when most people are sleeping those with dementia may wander, not be able to find or use the bathroom, or engage in other inappropriate actions. As the disease progresses, the caregiver must take over the sufferer’s life completely, including everything from helping them eat to getting dressed to taking medicines to bathing themselves, as well as all care and maintenance of the home and pets of the one afflicted.
Hyatt noted that more than 11 million Americans are caring for people who have Alzheimer’s, donating 15.3 billion hours of care. But without relief, caring for these people can take as much as 10 years off the caregiver’s life, cause anxiety and depression, impact their ability to fight disease, and cause chronic illness.
Currently, there are two other sources of caregiver support, both offered online only. These include Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Nashville and Alzheimer’s Tennessee. We Remember You is the only group offering person-to-person support because caregivers can feel very alone.
“Our support groups discuss the disease process and progression, help with the management of patient behaviors, provide caregivers with tips, teach them helpful communication techniques, give them time to share the issues they are facing and help others find solutions, and most of all we laugh. Laughter is important.”
Currently, they are helping 15 families who are taking care of family members, especially in the emergency room and when there is a crisis. They hope to be able to provide caregiver relief in the near future.
It is hard to watch a loved one slowly lose who they are to the disease. It is a wasting death, filled with anger, paranoia, regression, fading memory, loss of language skills, and the inability to care for oneself. Alzheimer’s kills more people every year than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.
“A caregiver needs to find the time to take care of themselves,” explains Hyatt. “They need to eat a healthy diet, keep medical appointments, exercise, manage stress, get enough rest, get respite time, and keep relationships with family and friends.”
A nurse by trade, Hyatt has more than 30 years of experience in senior healthcare, including hospice and dementia care. She is the former director of the caregiver program in Bedford County. She began We Remember You in February of 2021, and the non-profit was given 501©3 status in November 2021. Their website is currently under development. Hyatt can be contacted at (615) 801-5570.