To the editor:
This November, during National Family Caregivers Month, we recognize the impact of caregiving and honor the more than 16 million Americans caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in 2018, caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias provided an estimated 18.5 BILLION hours of unpaid assistance, a contribution to the nation valued at $234 billion.
I am one of these caregivers. Since my mother’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s, I have been her primary caregiver, even taking an early retirement so I could provide around-the-clock care. Over the last decade, there have been periods of extreme exhaustion — there is no sick leave or vacation days as a full-time caregiver. But on this journey, I’ve found that knowledge is power and talking to others in the same situation provides immeasurable relief. I am grateful for the workshops, caregiving conferences and support groups provided by the Alzheimer’s Association. I try my best to keep mom safe, to keep her happy and to keep her in the home that she’s been in for 65 years.
This month, take time to think about how you can support a caregiver. Ask for a list of errands that need to be run, spend time with the person with dementia so their caregiver can have a break, and educate yourself about the disease — the more you know, the easier it is to help. Reach out to the Alzheimer’s Association and get involved. These small gestures make a big difference.