November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month. To mark these events, the Alzheimer’s Association Georgia Chapter is encouraging people to lend a helping hand to more than 540,000 Georgia family members and friends serving as Alzheimer’s caregivers.
“Loving and caring for someone that does not remember you is mentally and physically tough”, added Cindy Widner Wall, Chair, Alzheimer’s Association, Georgia Chapter. “As Caregiver for my Daddy, I had to focus on the joy he was in my life even when he did not know he was my Daddy. I deeply mourned the loss of all our shared memories and experiences but was blessed with the support of my family to find our joy at any given time just being with Daddy. I relied on the Alzheimer’s Association to learn better coping skills in managing Daddy’s daily care and for both our mental wellbeing.”
Providing help and support to caregivers can be easier than most people think. Even little acts can make a big difference. The Alzheimer’s Association Georgia Chapter offers these suggestions:
• 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.
• Help for the Holidays: Holiday celebrations are often joyous occasions, but they can be challenging and stressful for families facing 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 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.
To learn more about Alzheimer’s disease and ways you can support families and people living with the disease, visit alz.org.