The state estimates there are around a million New Yorkers providing care to loved ones with Alzheimer's Disease. And as the population ages that number will only go up. Health reporter Erin Billups takes a look at a push to better support the people providing unpaid care to those living with some kind of dementia.
Ines Ruiz' husband Hebert Bonilla was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease in 2014. For about a year she struggled trying to navigate the healthcare system.
"It was overwhelming. Doctors appointments, medicine, things that can be paid or cannot be paid through the insurance," recalls Ruiz.
It's a similar story for many who care for ill family members.
"You have to take time away from your work, you have to sacrifice time away from your family. It's physically exhausting, it could be financially draining," says Presbyterian Senior Services Executive Director Rimas Jasin.
And it has an economic impact. The state estimates caregivers provide about a billion dollars of unpaid care to loved ones.
Which is why the state has awarded more than $67 million to organizations offering support to caregivers of Alzheimer's or dementia patients.
"Programs like ours help maintain both the person living with the disease in the community, supporting the caregivers emotionally, physically, financially," says Shyvonne Noboa, Program Director, Care NYC, Sunnyside Community Services.
Through Sunnyside Community Services, Care NYC program Ruiz was guided through the Medicaid eligibility process - eventually qualifying for in-home care for her husband.
But first she was connected to support services, for her, like one-on-one counseling, peer group support, educational resources - and even dancing classes for her and her husband.
"I feel more comfortable, more relaxed. I know that at a certain time of day I can relax," says Ruiz.
It also helps that Ruiz and her husband received guidance in Spanish. Language is a major barrier to care, along with the desire of many to keep their family issues private.
With the grant funding these programs can support more caregivers but first caregivers need to recognize it may take a village to help care for their loved one.
"One of our biggest challenges is the fact that most family caregivers don't even realize that they're family caregivers. A lot of us care for our loved ones because they're family. When they do need help, all they have to do is call," says Jasin.