November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and Family Caregivers Month. To mark these events, the Alzheimer’s Association is encouraging people to lend a helping hand to the more than 586,000 New York family members and friends serving as Alzheimer’s caregivers.

“Caregivers are superheroes, but even superheroes can’t do it alone,” said Beth Smith-Boivin, executive director for the Alzheimer’s Association, Northeastern New York Chapter. “This month provides us an opportunity to celebrate the strength and dedication of dementia caregivers, but also recognize the special challenges they face. Whether it’s a friend, neighbor or co-worker, providing help and support to caregivers is easier than most people think. Even little acts can make a big difference.”

The Alzheimer’s Association offers these suggestions for ways to support an Alzheimer’s 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’s website (alz.org) can direct you to several free, online care calendar resources that families can use to build their care team. These make it easy to share activities and information within the person’s care team. Users can post specific tasks for which assistance is needed, such as preparing meals, providing rides or running errands, and Helpers can sign up.

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.

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

Marisa Korytko is the Public Relations Director for the Alzheimer’s Association Northeastern New York chapter. She can be reached at mekorytko@alz.org.

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