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Alzheimer’s Insight: Eight ways to support an Alzheimer’s caregiver

Scott Finley

November is National Caregiver Month, when we honor the nearly 15 million Americans who provide 17 billion hours of unpaid care to individuals living with this devastating disease.

In Texas, over 400,000 people are living with Alzheimer’s or other dementia, and well over one million more people serve as caregivers – often family members, and often unpaid.

Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease on a daily basis can be both emotionally and financially taxing.  However, there are things you can do to help a caregiver you know – eight easy items from the Alzheimer’s Associaiton that will make a huge difference in their life.

Learn: Educate yourself about Alzheimer’s disease — its symptoms, its progression and the common challenges facing caregivers. The more you know, the easier it will be to find ways to help.

Build a team: Organize family and friends who want to help with caregiving. The Alzheimer’s Association offers links to several free, online care calendar resources that families can use to build their care team, share takes and coordinate helpers.

Give caregivers a break: Make a standing appointment to give the caregiver a break. Spend time with the person living with dementia and allow the caregiver a chance to run errands, go to their own doctor’s appointment, participate in a support group or engage in an activity that helps them recharge. Even one hour could make a big difference in providing the caregiver some relief.

Check in: Many Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers report feeling isolated or alone. So start the conversation — a phone call to check in, sending a note, or stopping by for a visit can make a big difference in a caregiver’s day and help them feel supported.

Tackle the to-do list: Ask for a list of errands that need to be run, such as picking up groceries or prescriptions. Offer to do yard work or other household chores. It can be hard for a caregiver to find time to complete these simple tasks that we often take for granted.

Be specific and be flexible: Open-ended offers of support “call me if you need anything” or “let me know if I can help” may be well-intended, but are often dismissed. Be specific in your offer “I’m going to the store, what do you need?” Continue to let the caregiver know that you are there and ready to help.

Help for the holidays: Holiday celebrations are often joyous occasions, but they can be challenging and stressful for families facing Alzheimer’s. Help caregivers around the holidays by offering to help with cooking, cleaning or gift shopping. If a caregiver has traditionally hosted family celebrations, offer your home instead.

Join the fight: Honor a person living with the disease and their caregiver by joining the fight against Alzheimer’s. You can volunteer with your local Alzheimer’s Association chapter, participate in fundraising events such as Walk to End Alzheimer’s and The Longest Day, advocate for more research funding, or sign up to participate in a clinical study through the Alzheimer’s Association’s Trial Match.

And just a reminder – you can always get the latest information about the Association’s COVID-19 emergency preparedness guidelines for Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers in long-term or community-based care settings here:

https://alz.org/professionals/professional-providers/coronavirus-covid-19-tips-for-dementia-caregivers

 

The Alzheimer’s Association leads the way to end Alzheimer’s and all other dementia – by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia. Visit alz.org or call 800.272.3900.

Scott Finley is Mgr. Media Engagement – Texas, Alzheimer’s Association