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Alzheimer’s Insights: Remember to check in on caregivers

Scott Finley

I was out and about recently and ran into an old friend.  In the time before COVID, that wouldn’t seem so unusual, but having been living through home confinement for well over a year it was a real treat.

A brief catch-up on family and then on mutual friends made for pleasant conversation.   As I left I thought that serendipity is a good thing, but there are times when you have to give it a little nudge.

I’m taking about the caregivers.  Maybe you know one, or are one yourself.

Nearly 15 million Americans provide 17 billion hours of unpaid care to individuals living with Alzheimer’s.

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.  Here are some easy items from the Alzheimer’s Association 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.

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.  For more information visit us at alz.org

Whatever you choose to do, we urge you to vaccinate before visiting.

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 Media Relations Manager for the Alzheimer’s Association® in Texas.  He can be reached at scfinley@alz.org