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I’m going to take you all to school for a bit. Did you know: 15 million Americans each year are providing 17 billion hours of care – often unpaid – to a relative or a friend living with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Furthermore, a third of these people provide care for these loved ones for more five years or more. Five years is a long time, especially when the challenges that come with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia are in your worn and weary, yet capable hands.

Easy isn’t a vocabulary word for Alzheimer’s caregivers. It is a blessing that so many people are willing to lend their loving hearts and helping hands. Watching an individual experience memory loss, reduced motor skills and other associated symptoms is taxing enough.
Kim Campbell, wife of the late country music legend Glen Campbell, has shared her personal message of hope about this very subject, as her husband fought Alzheimer’s until his passing this August. Mrs. Campbell, who assumed the caregiving role, has shared their story across the nation, and to countless audiences she leaves one very important note behind; caregivers are not alone, and that so many of these angels on earth neglect a very important person – themselves.

The National Institutes of Aging offers advice on how to navigate the caregiving role in a way that not only keeps the care recipient in mind, but also the caregiver herself. I’ll list a few of these tips with my own perspective:

Ask for Assistance – Many struggle to speak out about their needs, but starting just one conversation with a relative, friend or trusted professional can lead to many solutions. At the least of these is help with a task or two, such as housekeeping and errands; no one can fault a caregiver for asking.

Become Familiar with Community Resources – Those caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s will want to know adult day care and respite care services. Because a day away may be just what is needed to refocus and recharge when the going gets tough.

Connect with Others – With Alzheimer’s disease affecting five million Americans, no caregiver is alone. Support groups and public service events are like treasured gold to stressed family members digging for information about the condition.

Decide on Care Options – Caregivers deserve to know all of the choices available, to include Alzheimer’s memory care services – which offer No one should feel as if they are limited to one way of providing care.

According to Greek mythology, the Titan Atlas was commanded to hold up the sky for eternity. While carrying a loved one from Alzheimer’s diagnosis to the disease’s latter stages may feel like it takes forever, caregivers should not forget this one thing; that other caring relatives, community organizations and advocates will be there to lift them up when the world feels much too heavy.

Author: Lisa Keller, RN, BSN, is the executive director of Morning Pointe of Danville Senior Living and Alzheimer’s Memory Care.