November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and Family Caregivers Month. To mark these events, the Alzheimer’s Association – Eastern North Carolina Chapter is encouraging people to lend a helping hand to more than 356,000 family members and friends serving as Alzheimer’s caregivers.
“The demands of being an Alzheimer’s caregiver are all-encompassing and increase over time as the disease progresses, said Lisa Roberts, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association – Eastern North Carolina Chapter. “This month, we are recognizing family caregivers for all they do every day to support people in their lives living with dementia and invite the public to identify ways to support them as caregivers.”
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 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.
As part of National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month, the Alzheimer’s Association’s Chapters in North Carolina are offering free education programs and support groups to help all North Carolina caregivers and their families. For a complete list or to register for upcoming programs, visit this website.
To learn more about Alzheimer’s disease, support families and people living with the disease and information on the Alzheimer’s Association – Eastern North Carolina Chapter, visit the website or call (800) 272-3900.
By Christine John-Fuller