Wednesday, Nov. 1 marked the start of National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month.
An estimated 11,174 residents in the San Joaquin county area are caregivers for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. Caregiving is demanding and life altering, yet a recent Alzheimer’s Association survey shows that one out of three caregivers don’t engage others to help. With that in mind, the Alzheimer’s Association offers some tips on supporting caregivers and understanding Alzheimer’s patients.
Educate yourself about Alzheimer’s disease. Stay in touch with family caregivers; a card, a call or a visit means a lot and shows you care.
Be patient. Adjusting to an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is an ongoing process and each person reacts differently.
Offer a shoulder to lean on. The disease can create stress for the entire family. Simply offering your support and friendship is helpful.
Engage the person with dementia in conversation. It’s important to involve the person in conversation even when his or her ability to participate becomes more limited.
Offer to help the family with its to-do list. Prepare a meal, run an errand or provide a ride. Engage family members in activities. Invite them to take a walk or participate in other activities.
Offer family members a reprieve. Spend time with the person living with dementia so family members can go out alone or visit with friends. Be flexible. Don’t get frustrated if your offer for support is not accepted immediately. The family may need time to assess its needs.
Understanding is the first step to helping. People living with early-stage Alzheimer’s would like you to know they’re the same person they were before diagnosis. Independence is important to them; ask what they’re still comfortable doing and what they may need help with. Ask them how they’re doing; they’re living with a disease, just like cancer or heart disease.
You can join the fight against Alzheimer’s at alz.org and by volunteering at your local Alzheimer’s Association office, advocating for more research funding and by participating in events to help the organization, such as the Walk to End Alzheimer’s and The Longest Day.