Tips for helping reduce the burden of Alzheimer's caregiving

(BPT) - Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or other dementias is exceptionally demanding, and especially challenging. The caregiving needs of people living with Alzheimer’s are not only often more extensive, but are often needed over many years — even decades.

A recent survey by the Alzheimer’s Association indicates many caregivers are not getting the help and support they need — a whopping 84 percent of caregivers say they would like more support in caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, especially from family members.

“Too many people are shouldering the caregiving burden alone,” says Ruth Drew, director of information and support services at the Alzheimer’s Association. “Many people want or would welcome help, but they are reluctant or just too overwhelmed to ask.”

Tips for supporting a caregiver

Providing help and support to caregivers can be easier than most people think. Even little acts can make a big difference, Drew says. 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 Care Team Calendar is a free, personalized online tool that allows helpers to sign up for specific tasks, such as preparing meals, providing rides or running errands.

Give a break: Spend time with the person with dementia, allowing the caregiver a chance to run errands, go to their own doctor’s appointment 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 caregivers report feeling isolated or alone; make a phone call to check in, send a note or stop by for a visit.

Tackle the to-do list: Ask for a list of errands that need to be done. Pick up groceries or dry cleaning, or even offer to shuttle kids to and from activities.

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: 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 supporting the Alzheimer’s cause. Volunteer at your local Alzheimer’s Association office or participate in fundraising events.

“It’s a mistake to assume caregivers have everything under control,” Drew says. “Most caregivers can use and would appreciate help. No one can do everything, but each of us can do something.”

To learn more about Alzheimer’s disease and ways you can support families and people living with the disease, visit www.alz.org, the website of the Alzheimer’s Association.

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