November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month. The Alzheimer’s Association’s, Western Carolina Chapter and Eastern North Carolina Chapter are marking these events by recognizing and honoring the 479,000 family members and friends across North Carolina who are currently caring for a person living with Alzheimer’s.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly challenging for Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers during the past eight months. Many of these caregivers have experienced a reduction in outside care and support services, including adult day services, home health care and reduced support from family and friends in wake of social distancing protocols. In addition, many caregivers have had to find new and creative ways to engage their loved ones during quarantine.
“During this month and throughout the year, we celebrate the heroic contributions of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers, while also raising awareness about the unique challenges caregivers face,” said Katherine L. Lambert, Regional Leader for North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. “Never have the efforts of caregivers been tested more than during the past eight months. That is why we are committed to supporting these additional challenges they are facing.”
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, in North Carolina offers the following suggestions for supporting a caregiver. For more information, visit alz.org/honor.
How to Support an Alzheimer’s/Dementia Caregiver
- 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.
In 2019, friends and family of those with Alzheimer’s in North Carolina provided an estimated 545 million hours of unpaid care, a contribution valued at $7.1 billion. According to the 2020 Alzheimer’s Association Facts and Figures report, 83 percent of the help provided to older adults in the U.S. comes from family members, friends or other unpaid caregivers. And nearly half of all caregivers (48 percent) who provide help to older adults do so for someone with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Caregivers of people with dementia report providing an average of 92 hours of care per month.
As part of National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month, the Alzheimer’s Association, Western Carolina Chapter and the Alzheimer’s Association, Eastern North Carolina Chapter are offering free virtual education programs and online support groups to help all North Carolina caregivers and their families. This month’s programs include:
- Caregiver Support Groups
- Caregiving During the Holidays
- 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s
- Understanding Alzheimer’s and Dementia
- Understanding and Responding to Dementia Related Behavior
- Effective Communications
- Dementia Conversations
- Legal and Financial Planning