OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – An interim study presentation, focused on respite and family care for aging adults and Oklahoma patients with dementia, was heard at the State Capitol Tuesday. 

“Caregivers need to be able to have those breaks, particularly with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia. It’s a 24 hour, seven days a week caregiver role. It’s very intense,” said Maggie Shaffer, Director of Public Policy at the Alzheimer’s Association Oklahoma Chapter.

Interim study presentation for caretakers of those with dementia.
Interim study presentation for caretakers of those with dementia. Image KFOR.

The Area Agency on Aging defines respite as “a brief break in caregiving to allow caregivers to rest and relax.” It was a topic of discussion during Tuesday’s presentation. 

“Just the emotional and mental burnout of the caregivers,” said Rep. Nicole Miller, R-Edmond. “You know, it’s not unusual at all to see a caregiver actually pass on before the individual Alzheimer’s dementia does.”

Experts say there’s a growing need for respite care in Oklahoma, because the state’s older population is growing, as is the cost to care for them. 

Right now, close to 70,000 Oklahomans are battling Alzhiemer’s while about 135,000 people fall into the caregiver category. According to the Oklahoma Chapter of the American Alzheimer’s Association, those caregivers spent a combined 164 million hours caretaking last year. 

Speakers on Tuesday said it’s critical for the state to better highlight the resources available to caregivers, identify gaps and needs in rural areas and make future improvements. 

“Everybody at some point is going to end up being a caregiver in their life or being or having somebody provide that caregiver role for them,” said Shaffer. 

A link to respite resources can be found here