This November, during National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month, while families across the country are preparing for Thanksgiving, 16 million family members and friends will be caring for someone living with Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s Association – Western Carolina Chapter is encouraging people to lend a hand to support caregivers.
In North Carolina, there are an estimated 473,000 caregivers providing unpaid care to family members and friends living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. In 2018, friends and family of those with Alzheimer’s in North Carolina provided an estimated 538 million hours of unpaid care, a contribution valued at $6.8 billion.
According to a recent Alzheimer’s Association survey, people overwhelmingly agree (91 percent) 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 (39 percent) are not engaging others in caregiving tasks. In addition, more than four in five caregivers (84 percent) would have liked more support in providing care for someone with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, especially from their family.
“For many caregivers, the holiday season gives rise to stress, frustration and anger, instead of peace and goodwill, which is why are committed to enhancing care and support for all those affected by Alzheimer’s and other dementias,” said Katherine L. Lambert, CEO of the Western Carolina Chapter. “During this month and throughout the year, we encourage caregivers to reduce stress and be healthy, and for people to lend a hand in helping caregivers survive and thrive during the holidays.”
The Alzheimer’s Association offers the following ways that people can help caregivers and tips for reducing stress. For more information, visit http://www.alz.org/honor.
How to Help an Alzheimer’s Caregiver
Learn about the disease: 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 www.alz.org.
Create a care team calendar: 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.
Offer caregivers a reprieve: 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.
Support the Alzheimer’s cause: 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.
Reducing Holiday Stress for Alzheimer’s Families
Make sure others know: Let guests know what to expect before they arrive and tell them how they can help. For example, share what activities they can do with the person living with Alzheimer’s and how best to communicate with them.
Build on traditions and memories: Take time to experiment with new traditions that might be less stressful or a better fit with your caregiving responsibilities. For example, if evening confusion and agitation are a problem, turn your holiday dinner into a holiday lunch.
Involve the person with Alzheimer’s: Depending on abilities and preferences, make sure to keep the person with Alzheimer’s involved in the celebrations, such as packing cookies in tins or helping wrap gifts.
Plan ahead: When attending a holiday party, prepare the host for special needs, such as a quiet room for the person to rest in away from the noise and distractions.
Additional Facts and Figures: (http://www.alz.org/facts/)
- Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.
- Every 65 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s.
- An estimated 5.8 million Americans are living with the disease, including 170,000 North Carolina residents, are living with Alzheimer’s, a number estimated to grow to as many as 14 million by year 2050.
About the Alzheimer’s Association:
The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer’s.
About the Alzheimer’s Association – Western Carolina Chapter:
The Western Carolina Chapter provides patient and family services, information and referral, education, and advocacy in 49 central and western North Carolina counties. We provide a variety of services including a 24/7 Helpline, support groups, educational programs, and MedicAlert®. We offer opportunities to get involved and to make a difference. For more information about Alzheimer’s disease or the Alzheimer’s Association Western Carolina Chapter, visit www.alz.org/northcarolina or call (800) 272-3900. For the latest news and updates, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.