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Caregivers are struggling to help Michiganders with Alzheimer's, dementia

Courtesy of Unsplash

A new report from the Alzheimer’s Association Michigan Chapter finds an estimated 380,000 thousand family members are providing care to loved ones or neighbors.

The report estimates that in 2022 these caregivers provided more than 800 million hours of unpaid care valued at $17 billion.

This makes Michigan the number one state in the country for the average number of hours that caregivers work, according to the report.

The number one reason so many families are providing care is because of the lack of specialized healthcare professionals.

The report said there are only 164 geriatricians in Michigan and upper peninsula has a limited amount of physicians who are able to diagnose dementia.

Jean Barnas is the program services director for the Alzheimer's Association Michigan Chapter. She says the limited workforce issues adds a lot of stress on caregivers. In 2021, 66% of these caregivers reported to suffer from chronic health conditions.

"It's a family illness," said Barnas. "We need to do something. We need to change something there all of these caregivers that are more stressed out, both emotionally, physically, not getting the respite or the time off that they need to be a better caregiver."

Barnas said to meet the demand for Alzheimer's and dementia care by 2030 in Michigan, the specialized healthcare workforce in fields like neurology and geriatrics would have to increase by 25%.

The report estimates the specialty healthcare workforce would have to increase 183% by 2050 to meet the demand.

Editor's note: This story originally reported there is only one neurologist in the upper peninsula. This is not true and has been corrected above.

Rick joined WCMU as a general assignment reporter in March 2022.