November is not only National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, but also National Family Caregivers Month.
Today, more than 5 million Americans are suffering with Alzheimer’s, and if a cure is not found, more than 16 million will be suffering with the disease by 2050. As the number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s increases, so does the number of family members caring for those diagnosed with this devastating disease.
The significant stress of caregiving takes a physical and emotional toll, especially during the Holidays. Caregivers are less likely to get regular checkups, exercise or take much-needed breaks, which puts them at greater risk for illness and depression. In fact, a study suggested that the chronic stress of those caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s increase the risk that a caregiver will develop dementia themselves.
Below few things you can do to support a friend or family member caring for someone suffering with Alzheimer’s disease:
- Be a good listener. Ask about how the caregiver is feeling and coping.
- Call or visit the caregiver often to offer encouragement and watch out for signs of stress. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, signs of stress include anger, social withdrawal, anxiety about the future, depression, exhaustion, sleeplessness, irritability, lack of concentration and health problems.
- Rather than telling the caregiver call you if they need anything, offer specific help:
- Pick up items for the caregiver at the grocery store while you’re there.
- Stop by the caregiver’s home on your way to the dry cleaners to collect items that may need to be laundered.
- Run errands for the caregiver.
- Mow the caregiver’s lawn.
- Visit as often as you’re able to help with housework.
- Sit in for the caregiver so that he or she can spend an afternoon away.
- Organize those who want to help with the Alzheimer’s Association Care Team Calendar, which enables family and friends to sign up for specific tasks to help the caregiver, such as preparing meals, providing rides to doctor’s appointments, or running errands.
- Send an encouraging note or flowers to brighten the caregiver’s day.
- Encourage the caregiver to take care of himself or herself and seek help if needed. The Alzheimer’s Association provides information for caregivers on how to remain healthy.
Caregivers need support and encouragement. So take time to make sure the caregivers you know are also getting the care they need, not only during the Holidays, but all through the year.