Did you know that there are currently 16 million Americans providing unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias? These caregivers provide an estimated 18.6 billion hours of care valued at nearly $244 billion. During the month of November, caregivers are being honored and supported during National Family Caregivers Month. Caregivers provide necessary support and care for loved ones living with Alzheimer’s, helping with everyday tasks, providing companionship, and much more.
Caregivers have had an increased burden throughout the past year living through the pandemic. “Being a caregiver can be isolating in normal times, and then adding COVID on top of it, it’s just really making that impact so much stronger,” said Cassidy Covert, program coordinator at the Greater Michigan Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. “Caregiver stress is a real thing, and it can take a toll on the caregiver’s health as well. And we know that especially during COVID, that’s super important because we need to keep our immunity up, and it’s just a really trying time to be a caregiver right now.”
This month the Alzheimer’s Association Michigan Chapter is hosting several virtual events to help caregivers learn more on topics such as learning the early warning signs of dementia, effective communication strategies, how to enjoy the holidays with loved ones, and the pros and cons of new and innovative technology. Cassidy explained, “especially during these times, caregivers are at home with their loved ones, and they don’t have as much help and resources. Anything that we can do to kind of help give them the tools that they need during this time is just really, really valuable.”
If you are wondering how you can personally help those you know who are caring for a person with dementia, Cassidy offered some advice. “Even if we can’t be with one another, we can say, ‘Hey, I’m going to the grocery store. What can I get you?’ And you can drop it off on their front porch,” she said. She also mentioned other simple ways to help like checking in on them, or if you are going to gather for the holidays, offering them extra help with cooking or even offering to host at your home.
The Alzheimer’s Association also hosts regular support groups and has a 24/7 helpline at 800.272.3900. “You can get connected to one of our master’s level clinicians, and we can help navigate through any challenges that you’re having as a caregiver. If you need help developing a care plan or help finding a neurologist or respite services that are still open, or just anything that you might need, that 24/7 helpline is a great resource and it truly is 24/7,” said Cassidy. “It’s comforting to know you’re not in it alone and that you have resources.”