By Janette Nichols
Nov 7, 2018 at 1:39 PM
Alzheimer’s disease is devastating — not only for the 5.7 million-plus Americans living with the disease, but also for the 16 million-plus family members and friends serving as caregivers. The caregiving needs for someone living with Alzheimer’s are extensive and increase over time — on average four to eight years following a diagnosis.
Many family caregivers juggle competing priorities, becoming stretched thin and stressed. Most could use help. Here in Missouri, there are 316,000 family caregivers. During November – National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month – the Alzheimer’s Association recognizes and honors Alzheimer’s caregivers. We applaud these resilient men and women who do so much for those they love in their most difficult times.
Caring for a loved one with memory loss can be rewarding and uplifting. It can also be emotionally, physically and financially draining. Caregivers need to take care of themselves so that they can best take care of their loved ones. If you are a caregiver or if you know someone who is caring for a loved one living with dementia, please take note and share the following tips to being a healthy caregiver.
Know what community resources are available. Adult day programs, in-home assistance, visiting nurses and meal delivery are just some of the services that can help you manage daily tasks. Contact the Alzheimer’s Association or Area Agency on Aging chapters to learn more about available resources.
Get help and find support. The Alzheimer’s Association offers a number of services and programs to support caregivers.
There are a number of Alzheimer’s Association support groups designed to help you find comfort and reassurance with others that are dealing with similar situations.
The Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline (800.272.3900) connects you with trained professionals and provides you with reliable information and support to all those who need assistance.
The Alzheimer’s Association also offers modest financial assistance to qualifying caregivers to help with the cost of respite support (time off), products, equipment, safety services and legal guidance.
Get moving. Any form of physical activity can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being. Even a ten minute walk will help. If possible, encourage your loved one with the disease to join you in an activity you love, such as gardening or dancing.
Become an educated caregiver. As the disease progresses, new caregiving skills may be necessary. The Alzheimer’s Association offers programs to help you better understand and cope with the behaviors and personality changes that often accompany Alzheimer’s. Talking to others in a support group about how they are coping with the challenges of the disease and uncertainty about the future may be helpful.
Take care of yourself. Visit your doctor regularly. Try to eat well, exercise and get plenty of rest. Making sure that you are healthy can help you be a better caregiver. Respite funds can be used to help you take time off to visit a doctor, run errands and get much needed alone time.
During National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month, the Alzheimer’s Association asks all Columbia residents to reach out and lend a hand. 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 or visit alz.org/greatermissouri.
To better serve the Columbia area, the local Alzheimer’s Association office has moved to a more accessible location. The office is now located at 2609 E. Broadway, Suite 119, Columbia MO 65201.
Janette Nichols is a community resource specialist and represents the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Missouri Chapter at the Columbia Office.