November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month. The Alzheimer’s Association’s Western Carolina Chapter and Eastern North Carolina Chapter are marking these events by recognizing and honoring the 358,000 family members and friends across North Carolina who are currently caring for a person living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.
In 2020, friends and family of those with Alzheimer’s in North Carolina provided an estimated 517 million hours of unpaid care, a contribution valued at $7.3 billion. According to the 2021 Alzheimer’s Association Facts and Figures report, 83 percent of the help provided to older adults in the U.S. comes from family members, friends or other unpaid caregivers. And nearly half of all caregivers (48 percent) who provide help to older adults do so for someone with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Caregivers of people with dementia report providing an average of 92 hours of care per month.
The demands of being an Alzheimer’s caregiver are all-encompassing and increase over time as the disease progresses. This month, the Alzheimer’s Association is encouraging people to recognize Alzheimer’s caregivers for all they do every day to support people with dementia.
“During this month and throughout the year, we celebrate the heroic contributions of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers, while also raising awareness about the unique challenges caregivers face,” said Katherine L. Lambert, CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association, Western Carolina Chapter. “Never have the efforts of caregivers been tested more than during the past year and a half. That is why we are committed to supporting caregivers now more than ever.”
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or other dementias is exceptionally demanding and especially challenging. Providing help and support to caregivers can be easier than most people think. Even little acts can make a big difference. The Alzheimer’s Association offers the ideas below to encourage people to lend a hand to a caregiver this month and year-round:
Ways to Support an Alzheimer’s Caregiver
• Learn. Educate yourself about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia – 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 offers links to several free, online care calendar resources that families can use to build their care team, share takes and coordinate helpers.
• 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/honor.
As part of National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month, the Alzheimer’s Association’s Western Carolina Chapter and Eastern North Carolina Chapter are offering free education programs and support groups to help all North Carolina caregivers and their families. Featured programs include:
• 10 Ways to Help a Family (virtual | November 18) – Often individuals don’t know how best to help a family affected by Alzheimer’s or another dementia related disease. Frequently caregivers are unsure how to ask for help or what assistance to even ask for. Join for a brief overview of Alzheimer’s and dementia and the challenges caregivers may face followed by a panel discussion exploring tips for how to help a family and caregiver.
• Caregiving through the Holidays (in-person | Brevard, NC | November 4) – For many caregivers the holiday season gives rise to stress, frustration and anger, instead of peace and good will. This program is designed to teach caregivers to care for themselves, their loved ones, and about holiday safety all while giving suggestions that may make the holidays more enjoyable for you and your loved ones.
For a complete list of upcoming virtual programs or to register for a program, visit act.alz.org/ncmonthlyprograms or call 800-272-3900.
Additional Facts and Figures: (alz.org/facts)
• Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.
• More than six million Americans are living with the disease, including 180,000 North Carolina residents — a number estimated to grow to as many as 210,000 by year 2025.
• More than 11 million family and friends, including 358,000 in North Carolina, provide unpaid care to people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias in the United States.
• One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.
About the Alzheimer’s Association
The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Its mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. The Western Carolina Chapter provides patient and family services, information and referral, education, and advocacy in 49 central and Western North Carolina counties. A variety of services includes a 24/7 Helpline, support groups, educational programs, and MedicAlert®. For more information about Alzheimer’s disease or the Alzheimer’s Association Western Carolina Chapter, visit alz.org/northcarolina or call (800) 272-3900. For the latest news and updates, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.