Psychological Effects on Children Who Are Caretakers of a Parent With Dementia Thesis

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Psychological Effects on Children who are Caretakers of a Parent with Alzheimer's Disease

The Psychological Stress of Caring for a Parent with Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's is one of the worst diseases to plague mankind. It is degenerative in nature, leading to a complete loss of memory, self, and identity. The patient is forced to suffer the process of a mind slowly erasing all of its good memories. Yet, the patient is not the only one who suffers within the context of this degenerative disease. The caretakers of a patient with Alzheimer's must also suffer; they watch as their loved ones slowly forget who they are and all the good memories shared between families. Children of adult's suffering from Alzheimer's get hit the hardest. Caring for a crumbling mind of your aren't, the person who gave and structure your life, can have sever psychological consequences on the mind of adult caretakers who are the children of patient's with Alzheimer's. Children can show signs of extreme denial, anger, and depression while caring for their degrading parents. Such detrimental negative psychological affects can last for years based on the idea that the child is suffering from a loss that is still a present reminder in their daily lives.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Thesis on Psychological Effects on Children Who Are Caretakers of a Parent With Dementia Assignment

When a loved one, especially a parent is plagued with Alzheimer's disease, in many cases the family is first to step up and provide daily care. Astounding percentages of people are involved in the care giving of a loved one within the context of the immediate family, "Nearly 25% of all U.S. households, or 22 million people, are involved in family caregiving for an older relative or friend," (Durant & Christian 1). This is a huge percentage of the American population who are forced to deal with family care and all of the stresses and mental trauma that comes with it. Several different studies show the extent of thee mental stress of caring for a loved one and how it can negatively affect the mental health an well-being of the caretaker involved; this is especially true within the context of caring for a patient suffering from Alzheimer's disease, "Caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer's disease are at an increase risk of mental and physical problems as a result of the strain that accompanies this role," (Sanders & Adams 287). These caregivers within the family are faced with unique challenges and are defined by a unique role which governs their interaction with their diseased loved one. Out of all of the family caretakers, "Almost three-fourths of caregivers are women," (Durant & Christian 1). This presents particular challenge to the female population of adult children caring for parents with Alzheimer's disease. Women are forced to conceptualize yet another caretaking role which can have negative ramifications on their mental health and stability. When a child of a patient with Alzheimer's is burdened with the care of their ailing parents, even more psychological affects are potentially viable within the situation. Being so close to an individual with Alzheimer's disease means that one is there from the beginning. A child or spouse is particularly vulnerable for they are exposed to the initial reaction of he patient before he or she becomes too lost in the disease, "Patients who are in the very early stages of Alzheimer's disease or other similar conditions may worry about their failing powers and sometimes share their concerns with spouses and children," (Powell & Courtice 48). In the event that a person with Alzheimer's does not have a reliable spouse or partner to care for them in their time of need, these responsibilities often fall onto the backs of the individual's adult children. In fact, "Children are the secondary caregivers when the spouse is present and the primary caregiver when the spouse is not present or able to assume the caregiver role," (Durant & Christian 1). As the child's responsibility grows, so does the tension in switching roles from a person to be cared for to a caregiver. Previous research on the topic of the effect the disease has on caretakers who are children of the patient show that "Often they are not well-versed on how to shift roles, where they assume the lead role as a decision maker or take on the responsibility of caregiver," (Durant & Christian 1). So, children of Alzheimer's patients who are involved with a great deal of the care of their parent are particularly vulnerable to mental stress and psychological expressions of that stress which can negatively affect their mental well being.

One of the first and most dangerous psychological defenses put up by children of Alzheimer's patients who take on the burden of daily care is denial. Denial is a powerful defense mechanism which helps protect us from the unthinkable, from what we believe to be unbearable; "our defense mechanism of denial has helped us to disengage from our feelings, to take distance from the horrible events, and finally to dull and ultimately deaden our emotions," (Powell & Courtice 47). Children who care for their ailing parents are particularly vulnerable to allowing denial rule their method of care. Research has "found that adult children experienced higher levels of denial and avoidance during the early stages of the disease," (Sanders & Adams 289). In their denial, the child is blocking reality from taking hold and potentially setting up for more serious psychological ramifications to appear later, like the onset of depression or anxiety related disorders. Grief is hard to deal with within the context of caring for a person who has succumbed to Alzheimer's disease, for "Grief as experiences by caregivers is ambiguous because the care recipient is still physically present, but cognitively not the same person," (Sanders & Adams 288). To counteract this feeling of ambiguous grief, many adult children turn to denial of the bare facts. Denial is not only a defense mechanism used by the caretaker to avoid reality, but it is also a potential aggravator of further complications down the road. Allowing denial to take over and block more realistic conceptions of the situation and how to care for the ailing parent, denial can cause danger to a patient when the child caretaker does not take the illness seriously; "While short-term denial, such as a response of disbelief to a sudden shock or catastrophe, may be a way-station in the process of accepting and dealing with he crisis, denial that persists makes useful action more difficult, if not impossible," (Powell & Courtice 47). Not fully processing one's grief while living in a prison of denial leads directly to other instances of mental instability, a process which is exacerbated within the context of adult children who become caregivers for their ailing parents.

Dealing with a parent who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease can cause the caregiver to also harbor feelings of anger and anxiety. While caring for an ailing parent, many adult children have to deal with extremely bad or embarrassing behavior from the individual with Alzheimer's as that individual slowly looses his or her ties to the social world and all of its rules and regulations. This disruptive and out of the ordinary behavior can cause the caretaker to grow angry with his or her parent, (Powell & Courtice 61). To add onto the pressures of normal daily life, Alzheimer's disease brings so many more challenges and obstacles that can frustrate the caretaker, who has essentially taken on all of the responsibilities of the individual with the disease who formerly could handle his or her own responsibilities. This extra load causes tons of extra mental stress and anxiety, "The caregivers, in particular, live not only with the daily pressures and tensions of ordinary living, but also with the constant intensity of an enormous responsibility," (Powell & Courtice 63). The anxiety of dealing with so much extra responsibility can manifest itself in terms of mental stress and anxiety disorders which can cause outburst and erratic behavior in the caretaker. This may lead to use of another defense mechanism, taking out that frustration and anxiety on undeserving individuals and objects. Literature regarding how to handle caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's disease states that "Sometimes we project our anger onto our environment and become infuriated with doctors and other professionals or vent our rage on an object, such as a car, when we are irritated with ourselves," (Powell & Courtice 65). Release of this tension in inappropriate times may result in problems with anger management, causing unnecessary stress in other aspects of the caregiver's life, such as relationships with other individuals who do not suffer from Alzheimer's disease. Anger that is internalized, another major option for dealing with the mental stress and anxiety of such frustrations, can lead to exaggerated fears and anxiety disorders manifesting themselves through panic attacks, uneasiness, and depression (Powell & Courtice 67). Thus anger is dangerous not only in and of itself, but also to the extreme psychological stress which can later manifest itself in clinical disorders and depressive moods.

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"Psychological Effects on Children Who Are Caretakers of a Parent With Dementia."  September 1, 2009.  Accessed September 27, 2021.