Being a family caregiver is tough work, regardless of the situation. Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia presents its own set of challenges. Caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s often end up providing care for a longer period of time, and as the disease progresses, the daily challenges begin to grow.
According to the CDC, over half (57%) of family caregivers supporting loved ones with Alzheimer’s and related dementia diseases provide care for four years or more. In addition, the family caregiver’s role in managing activities of daily living (ADLs), like eating, bathing and toileting, increases as the disease progresses.
Challenges of Being an Alzheimer’s Family Caregiver
The Alzheimer’s Association dedicates an entire section of its website to caregiver health. One study on “Family caregivers of people with dementia” notes that Alzheimer’s family caregivers face an increased risk of stress, depression, and other health conditions. As you can imagine, the risk of burnout for caregivers is high.
In order to manage caregiver burnout, it’s important to be able to spot the signs. Another way to help caregivers avoid burnout — and ultimately provide better care — is to acknowledge and support these selfless individuals whenever you can. There are several ways you can make a difference.
Raising Awareness for Alzheimer’s Family Caregivers
The contributions of family caregivers, especially those supporting loved ones with Alzheimer’s, is immeasurable. Which is why November is dedicated to recognizing and celebrating family caregivers during National Family Caregivers Month.
Taking place each year in November, National Family Caregivers Month is a reminder to show support for our family caregivers, including family caregivers of individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. More resources and information about the month are available from these organizations:
- Caregiver Action Network (CAN)
- Administration for Community Living (ACL)
- Mental Health America (MHA)
While National Family Caregivers Month is only once a year, it’s important to support family caregivers year round.
3 Ways You Can Support an Alzheimer’s Family Caregiver
We know family members providing care for loved ones with Alzheimer’s need support, but we often don’t know how to take the next step beyond asking, “How are you doing?” The thing about caregiver burnout is, once they’ve reached that point, they may already be too exhausted to even ask for help.
Here are three ways you can support a family caregiver you know.
1. Tell Them You Are Available to Help
Family caregivers tend to be busy people and may not want to burden anyone. They might even feel guilty discussing their challenges or asking for help. How can you show your support? The first step is to check in with them, preferably in-person, but a phone call or text message can also work.
Let caregivers know you recognize the overwhelming burden and great responsibility that comes with caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s.
No matter what, make sure to stay in touch. Isolation can be another sign of caregiver burnout and depression can soon follow.
2. Be Specific With Your Offer to Help
If a family caregiver declines your offer to connect, the best thing you can do is take a step back and listen with intent. This will help you tailor your support to the caregiver’s circumstances. The Mayo Clinic suggests you get specific with your offer.
Things you might consider asking or saying to an Alzheimer’s family caregiver include:
- “I’m going to the grocery store. What can I pick up for you?”
- “I’ve got a couple of hours free tomorrow afternoon. May I sit in for you while you run errands or take time for yourself?”
- “Do you need some laundry done? I can pick it up today and bring it back clean tomorrow.”
Being intentional and specific in your offer to help can go a long way. Once the caregiver realizes you are truly willing to support them, then you can offer to help in bigger ways.
3. Be Flexible and Understanding
Emergencies happen, but if you commit to helping an Alzheimer’s family caregiver, you shouldn’t reschedule at the last minute. at the last minute. They may be depending on this time to catch up with critical errands or taking time for self care. The caregiver’s schedule should be the priority.
Memory and Respite Care Options at Friendship Village
Sometimes, despite your best intentions, you may find that an Alzheimer’s family caregiver needs more help than you can provide. There may even come a point where the family caregiver can no longer attend to the health care needs of a person living with Alzheimer’s in their own home. This realization can bring on a lot of emotions. You should continue to check in and be supportive.
If the Alzheimer’s family caregiver needs more assistance, they may want to consider residential respite care. Friendship Village of Bloomington, a senior living community in Bloomington, Minnesota, offers respite care stays of a week or longer. Our caring team members have experience working with older adults who are living with Alzheimer’s, dementia and memory loss. In the event a higher level of care is needed and the family caregiver can no longer take care of a loved one with dementia at home, we’ve also recently expanded our memory care residences.
At Friendship Village of Bloomington, we recognize the challenges and rewards of family caregiving. If someone you know could benefit from respite care or memory care, please reach out to our team through the form below or give us a call at 952-831-7500.