SC Alzheimer’s caregiver shares experience for advocacy: ‘It affects everybody’

Published: Nov. 10, 2023 at 6:55 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Lowcountry caregivers are sharing their personal experiences in hopes of advocating for their vital role during National Alzheimer’s and Family Caregivers Awareness Month.

The number of diagnosed patients and family caretakers is on an upward trend, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Recent statistics from the nonprofit show around 6 million Americans are currently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, while more than 11.5 million people are acting as caregivers.

In South Carolina, there are around 216,000 caregivers to 95,000 patients.

Cost of care is following the same path, topping out at around $5 billion on the statewide level and $345 billion on national numbers.

Most caregivers who take on the role say it takes a physical, mental and financial toll.

Full-time commitment could mean quitting a job, leaving a social life or exercising on the back burner.

This is why advocates say it is more important than ever to provide better resources not only for patients but their caretakers too.

Cheryll Woods-Flowers says she acted as a caregiver for both her parents, one with Alzheimer’s and another with COPD.

She also helped care for her husband, who was diagnosed with lung cancer.

When asked about her Alzheimer’s caregiving experience, Woods-Flowers says it is, at times, full-time, full-care, and full-cost.

“It will bankrupt a family, not just financially,” Woods-Flowers says. “It will emotionally bankrupt a family. If you’re under constant stress, and it’s so personal it’s somebody you love. That you had in your life your whole life. Then it’s even worse.”

The Alzheimer’s Association claims current statistics could increase as much as 26% by 2025.

For that reason, they emphasize why it is important to keep Alzheimer’s in the public eye as a national priority.

“It doesn’t matter who you are,” Woods-Flowers says. “It doesn’t matter what your walk of life is. It doesn’t matter what color you are. It doesn’t matter where you’re from. It affects everybody, all over the world.”

Woods-Flowers has joined others in pushing for better awareness, advocacy and research through national and statewide coalitions, including the Special Committee of Aging.

Woods-Flowers says the devotion can be worth the strain.

“I wouldn’t take a million dollars for the time I took care of them [my family]. I will never regret that time. But it is hard. It is a job nobody wants. It is understanding for them they are losing control of their lives. They’re losing control of their thoughts.”

Advocates say caregiving is not a job everyone is fit for, and that it is okay to step back and ask for help.

The group encourages finding resources to put a family member in contact with counselors, peer programs, paid caregivers or volunteers.

For more information, click here.