Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are reaching a crisis point, with more than 5 million Americans currently living with the disease. The illness disproportionately affects women. They make up almost two-thirds of Americans living with Alzheimer’s and are more than half of the caregivers for others with the illness, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
We had the opportunity to speak about this topic with Kailen Rosenberg, an expert on unconditional love, and Betsy Broyles Arnold, who cared for her mother when she was suffering from the illness. They are behind the website Alzheimer’s Unconditional Love, which is a fountain of resources and information for anyone who may have a loved one affected by the disease. The women have joined forces to spread a message of awareness for both understanding the illness and the importance of caregivers, who are often friends or family.
“Awareness, understanding and knowledge is crucial,” Rosenberg said. “Knowledge is power when it comes to love.”
Arnold and her sister, daughters of former University of Arkansas football coach Frank Broyles, became their mother’s primary caregivers she fell ill.
“In the beginning we knew nothing about the disease,” Arnold said. “We learned a lot through trial and error.” Through it all, she said, “We always tried to look at taking care of my mother as a privilege.”
The role reversal, of a child taking care of a parent, was one of the greatest challenges, Arnold said. But Rosenberg stresses that this is part of loving someone.
"It tugs on your heart. It tugs on your emotions," she said. Rosenberg says practicing unconditional love and being present in the moment can help a caregiver in their role.
Another piece of advice? If you are providing care for a loved one, remember to take care of yourself.
"You’ve got to give yourself a break,” Arnold said. “If you don’t, you can’t be a good caregiver."