I attended a breakfast sponsored by my local Alzheimer’s Association last week. At the breakfast, we heard that there are approximately 196,000 families affected by Alzheimer’s disease just in my local Alzheimer’s Association service area. That is 196,000 families with someone coping with the effects of the disease as well as someone coping with the effects of being a caregiver to the person with the disease.
Since becoming an elder law attorney, I have learned that caregiving, while rewarding, is also a hard and demanding job. One of the challenges with caregiving is getting the caregiver to take as good of care of themselves as they do of the person they are caring for. Organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association are available to assist caregivers as well as the person affected by Alzheimer’s disease. They provide services for caregivers such as a 24-7 confidential helpline, caregiver training, support groups and care consultations.
It is easy to understand that the person affected by Alzheimer’s disease needs support and assistance but sometimes it is not as readily apparent that the caregiver is in as much need as the person they are caring for. Caregivers need to know that they don’t have to shoulder the burden alone and it is ok to ask for and receive help. Many times just a short break from caregiver duties to focus on outside interests can go a long way in giving a caregiver some balance in their lives.
So, the next time you don’t know what to say or what to do to help, remember that the most helpful thing to do may be to research caregiver support options in your area and then help the caregiver to take advantage of those support options.