DAYTON — The World Health Organization reports that about one in every 10 people, or 970 million people worldwide, has a diagnosable mental health condition. Mental illnesses are even more common in the United States according to the National Institute of Mental Health, which estimates that more than one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness (57.8 million in 2021).
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and it is an apt time to think about more than 11 million Americans, 493,000 in Ohio alone, who give of themselves to provide unpaid care for those living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. According to a Cleveland Clinic survey, 36 percent of caregivers live with depression and anxiety, which is 114 percent more than non-caregivers.
“Caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia face unique challenges, and as dementia symptoms worsen, they can experience increased emotional and physical stress,” stated Annemarie Barnett, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Cincinnati and Miami Valley Chapters. “This often makes it more difficult to care for their loved ones and themselves.”
In March, the Alzheimer’s Association released its annual Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report revealing the burden of Alzheimer’s and dementia on Ohio caregivers is growing. According to the report:
• Unpaid caregivers (59 percent) report emotional stress due to caregiving and 39 percent of unpaid caregivers report physical stress due to caregiving.
• The prevalence of anxiety among dementia caregivers is 44 percent, compared to caregivers of people with stroke 31 percent
• The prevalence of depression is higher among dementia caregivers (30 – 40 percent) when compared to caregivers for other conditions such as schizophrenia (20 percent) or stroke (19 percent)
• The prevalence of suicidal ideation in dementia caregivers with a mean age of 64 was 32 percent compared with 2.7 percent in U.S. adults age 56 and older.
According to the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the signs and symptoms of depression include: becoming easily agitated or frustrated, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, feelings of hopelessness, thoughts of death, dying or suicide, disturbed sleep, fatigue or loss of energy, loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities, difficulty thinking or concentrating, changes in appetite and weight and physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders and pain.
“Caregivers likely have many responsibilities,” said Dayna Ritchey, program director of the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Cincinnati and Miami Valley Chapters.
“Caregiving is hard and can lead to feelings of stress, guilt, anger, sadness, isolation and depression. Depression affects different people in different ways and at different times. For example, someone may experience depression right after their family member has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Other caregivers may experience it as Alzheimer’s progresses and the cognitive abilities of the person with Alzheimer’s diminish,” Ritchey added.
The Alzheimer’s Association Miami Valley Chapter recommends several steps to help avoid or lessen caregiving depression:
• Let family and friends help you and ask for help when you need it.
• Seek out caregiver support – caregiver support groups are located throughout the Dayton area. A current list can be found on the chapter website at
• Learn ways to relax and manage stress.
• Try meditation or yoga to help reduce caregiver stress.
• Take time for yourself as a caregiver – you need to be physically and emotionally strong to provide care.
• Participate in enjoyable activities.
Learn more about caregiver depression at www.alz.org/help-support/caregiving/caregiver-health/caregiver-depression.
There are 493,000 caregivers caring for 220,000 Ohioans age 65 and older living with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association “2023 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures.” The number of Ohioans living with Alzheimer’s is expected to increase to 225,000 by 2025.
Those concerned about themselves or a loved one can contact the Alzheimer’s Association Miami Valley Chapter at 937-291-3332 to schedule a care consultation with a social worker who can offer connections to local resources that can help.