Right now, there are 15 million people across the country providing care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. In a recent Alzheimer’s Association survey, four out of five of these caregivers say they wish they had more help with the intensive and long-term responsibilities that face them, yet a surprising one in three is not even seeking help.
Because caregivers obviously have a difficult time asking for the assistance they need, don’t wait for your family member or friend to request your help. Below are some ways you can actually pitch in and take some of that heavy load off their shoulders:
To-do list. Caregivers always appreciate people’s offers of help, but they rarely take them up on it. Instead of offering, just do it. Ask caregivers to share their long list of things to do and enlist family and friends to help tick off tasks, such as grocery shopping, picking up dry cleaning and going to the pharmacy. An easy way to organize the team of helpers is through the free, online Alzheimer’s Association Care Team Calendar, where caregivers can post tasks and those who want to support them can sign up.
Downtime. Most people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias cannot be left alone. That means full-time caregivers are typically stuck in the house for long stretches and are unable to see friends, get their hair cut or even go to their own doctors’ appointments. Give your friend or family member a break by scheduling a specific time each week when you can come by and hang out with the person with Alzheimer’s or other type of dementia. Not only does this give the caregiver the opportunity to recharge their batteries, but it also gives your loved one added companionship.
Just talk. Most caregivers feel uncomfortable talking about what they are going through. As a result, they’re often left feeling isolated and alone. As a friend or family member, encourage them not to keep their feelings bottled up. Maybe start with a card or a quick call to show that you’re there for them. Later pay them a visit and start a dialogue about how they’re holding up with the hopes that they’ll open up about their stresses, fears and anxieties.
Holiday help. The holidays can be challenging and stressful for families living with Alzheimer’s. During this time, you can lend caregivers a hand by helping with cooking, cleaning, gift shopping and holiday decorating. And if their house has traditionally been where the family gathers, offer to host the celebration in your home instead this year. When you have so many responsibilities piling up, taking one of those obligations off their plates can make all the difference.
Learn. By learning about the disease, including its symptoms, progression and exactly what your friends and family are facing, you’ll discover additional ways you can help the caregivers you care about. Consult the Alzheimer’s Association website for more information and resources.