November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month. The Alzheimer’s Association is marking these events by recognizing and honoring the more than 16 million family members and friends across the U.S. who are currently caring for a person living with Alzheimer’s.
According to an Alzheimer’s Association survey, people overwhelmingly agree that caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia should be a group effort among family or close friends, yet one out of three caregivers are not engaging others in caregiving tasks. More than four in five caregivers would have liked more support in providing care for someone with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, especially from their family. With 16 million Alzheimer’s caregivers across the country, that leaves a lot of people in need of support.
This November during National Family Caregivers Month, the Alzheimer’s Association is encouraging people to lend a hand to caregivers. Here are just a few of the ways that people can help caregivers this month.
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. The Alzheimer’s Association has a vast amount of resources and information available at http://www.alz.org
Build a Team: The Alzheimer’s Association Care Team Calendar is a free, personalized online tool to organize family and friends who want to help with caregiving. This service makes it easy to share activities and information within the person’s care team. Helpers can sign up for specific tasks, such as preparing meals, providing rides or running errands. Users can post items for which assistance is needed. Visit the Care Team Calendar here: www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-care-calendar.asp.
Give a Break: Make a standing appointment to give the caregiver a break. Spend time with the person 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: Almost two out of every three caregivers said that feeling isolated or alone was a significant challenge in providing care for someone with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. What’s more, half of all caregivers felt like they couldn’t talk to anyone in social settings or work about what they were going through. 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 – pick up groceries, dry cleaning or even offer to shuttle kids to and from activities. It can be hard for a caregiver to find time to complete these simple tasks outside of the home 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. Try making your offer of help or support more specific (“I’m going to the store, what do you need?” or “I have free time this weekend, let me stop over for a couple of hours so you can do what you need to do.”) Don’t get frustrated if your offer of support is not immediately accepted. The family may need time to assess its needs. 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 living with 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 at your local Alzheimer’s Association office, participate in fundraising events such as the Walk to End Alzheimer’s and The Longest Day, advocate for more research funding, or sign up to participate in a clinical study as a healthy volunteer through the Alzheimer’s Association’s Trial Match. Joining the cause can help families facing the disease know that they are not alone in their fight.