Alzheimer’s dementia is a devastating disease – not only for the person living with the disease but also for the family and friends serving as caregivers. My family’s experience as caregivers is not a unique one. According to the Arkansas Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, there are 178,000 family caregivers providing care to a member of their family with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia in Arkansas alone.
A few weeks ago I shared the story of my grandmother and her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease. As the disease progressed, she began to need a higher level of care. Her dementia made her prone to wandering, increased her risk of a fall, and needing to be prompted to eat. The need for a higher level of care had a significant impact on the stress level in our household.
Like many family caregivers, my family faced many challenges and often felt overwhelmed. My parents had to learn how to balance their jobs, two teenage boys, and caring for my grandmother. With baby boomers reaching retirement age more and more families are navigating the challenges of caring for both children and aging parents. Some estimates suggest that one in four
Caring for my grandmother over the years gave my family many happy memories. The joys of those days also came with days that were emotionally, physically, and financially draining. These can be difficult to navigate alone. If you or someone you know find themselves in the role of a family caregiver, here are a few tips and places you can go for support.
Don’t be afraid to reach out for help
If you are facing challenges, do not be afraid to reach out and ask for help. The White River Area Agency on Aging can provide information on local services that might be available to you: 501-745-4200.
The pandemic has shifted the education and support services of the Alzheimer’s Association to a virtual format. To learn more about those services contact The Association’s 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900. The helpline connects you with trained professionals and provides you with reliable information and support to all those who need assistance.
Reach out to your social networks, local churches, and family and friends to let them know that you need help. You are not alone and should not try and navigate these challenges without a support system.
Take care of yourself
A wise friend once told me that you can not take care of anyone around you unless you take care of yourself first. Any form of physical activity can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being. Even a ten-minute walk will help. Try to eat well, exercise, and get plenty of rest.
November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month. Take time to support a caregiver you know. Run errands, help with a household chore or give caregivers a break by spending time with the person with dementia. These small gestures can make a big difference and offer well-deserved support to those who give so much.
To learn more about caregiver stress and what programs and services the Alzheimer’s Association offers, please call 800-272-3900.