NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Finding out a family member or friend has dementia is a tough blow, but even worse is entering the caregiving process without a good plan to deal with it.
More and more households face the issue each year. According to Dr. Richard Frank, a medical director at Indianapolis health benefits firm Wellpoint, 43.5 million U.S. adults care for someone 50 years or older suffering from dementia, with 60% of all Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers being women.
Wellpoint defines dementia as someone having loss of memory and other symptoms that interfere with daily life, "a disease caused by physical changes in the brain that result in cell death. Alzheimer's, a fatal brain disease, is the most common type of dementia, accounting for 60% to 80% of cases."
As serious and debilitating a disease as dementia is, the fallout goes beyond the emotional. There's a financial side to the issue, as well. The Alzheimer's Association website reports that "15.5 million caregivers provided an estimated 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care for people with dementia in 2013 valued at more than $220 billion."
To deal with the emotional and the financial toll from dementia, Wellpoint offers caregiving households some advice:
Get the facts. The more you know about dementia, the better the caregiving experience, Wellpoint says. The Alzheimer's Association website is a great place to start. There you can learn how to work with dementia patients to construct sentences (the loss of this ability is a common byproduct of dementia) and help patients recall names, numbers and other lifestyle details.