Wooster, Ohio – On Thursday evening, November 8, forty-one local residents impacted by Alzheimer’s or another dementia joined the Alzheimer’s Association for a community forum to learn about Alzheimer’s changes in the brain, and discuss how to address dementia and offer more support to caregivers locally.
“Dementia is the umbrella term for an individual’s changes in memory, thinking or reasoning,” noted Samantha Sathre, education coordinator. Sathre presented one of several community education programs the Alzheimer’s Association offers local community groups and service clubs before the group conversation began. “There are many possible causes of dementia, including Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause, accounting for 60 to 80 percent of all cases, but Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging: it’s a progressive brain disorder.”
Karen Elliott, program director with the Greater East Ohio Area Chapter, began the community discussion with a review of local impact. In Wayne County, more than 2,400 individuals are living with Alzheimer’s disease; for each individual, 2-3 are presently providing unpaid care as caregivers.
From June 2017 – June 2018, the Alzheimer’s Association Greater East Ohio Area Chapter responded to 55 calls to their 24/7 Helpline (800.272.3900) from Wayne County, providing information and referral; resulting in 41 care consultations – a free services providing personalized information and ongoing support to families. Additionally, the chapter provided 8 community education programs on topics such as “Know the 10 signs” or “Understanding and responding to dementia-related behavior”, reaching 120 county participants.
Wayne county’s two caregiver support groups meet in Orrville on the 1st Wednesday of each month at Trinity United Methodist Church (1556 Rex Dr.) at 1:00 p.m.; and in Wooster on the 3rd Wednesday at 1:00 p.m. at Wooster United Methodist Church (243 N. Market St.) Caregivers come to share experiences, tips, information, and offer support in a setting facilitated by staff or trained volunteers. The groups held 22 meetings, reaching 99 participants.
The most common feedback from community members, including professionals and caregivers, was the need for more awareness of the free services available, and the need to educate healthcare professionals to better provide the information to families at the time of diagnosis. Several attendees left with the intention of scheduling additional community education programs with the Alzheimer’s Association.
“Too often we hear from caregivers, ‘I wish I’d known these resources were available sooner,’” notes Elliott. “We need community leaders and volunteers to expand that reach and awareness.”
Today’s Dementia Caregiver
According to the Alzheimer’s Association 2018 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. About 16.1 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or another dementia – a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life.
These caregivers provided an estimated 18.4 billion hours of care, valued at over $232 billion. Increasingly, dementia caregivers are juggling multiple demands, including work, family and geographic separation.
- More than 1 in 10 caregivers (12 percent) are long-distance caregivers, living more than an hour away from the care recipient.
- The majority of dementia caregivers are women (58 percent).
- Dementia caregivers are, on average, 54 years old.
- One in six millennials (age 18-34) are serving as caregivers to someone living with Alzheimer’s or other dementias.
- One quarter of dementia caregivers are “sandwich generation” caregivers — meaning that they care not only for an aging parent, but also for children under age 18.
"Behind these staggering statistics are many compelling, inspiring and heroic stories of caregivers who make daily sacrifices to make a difference in the lives of those they care for," notes Cheryl Kanetsky, executive director at the Alzheimer’s Association. "And there are so many more people we have yet to reach with our free care and support services, for those with memory loss, and their caregivers."
To help caregivers balance competing priorities while maintaining their overall health and well-being, the Alzheimer’s Association offers these tips:
- Take Care of Yourself – It can be easy to neglect your health while caring for others, but making sure you are healthy can help you be a better caregiver. Try to eat well, exercise and get plenty of rest. Carving out just 30 minutes a day for yourself to do something you enjoy can go a long way to reducing caregiver stress.
- Maintain Good Communication – Help other family members understand the demands you’re facing and enlist their help and support. A 2017 Alzheimer’s Association survey found that 91 percent of Americans believe it “takes a village” to care for a person living with Alzheimer’s, but many caregivers fail to ask for help.
- Seek Support – Organize friends and family who want to help provide care and support. Access local support groups or online communities to connect with other caregivers. If stress becomes overwhelming, seek professional help.
- Know You’re Doing Your Best – It's normal to lose patience or feel like your care may fall short sometimes. You're doing the best you can. For support and encouragement, consider joining an online or in-person support group.
“Too many caregivers are hesitant to ask for help or they just don’t know how,” Elliott adds. “That’s why our free education programs, caregiver support groups, the 24/7 Helpline (800.272.3900), and all of the resources at alz.org are so important.”
To learn more about Alzheimer’s disease and to find resources for caregivers, families and people living with the disease, visit www.alz.org. The complete Facts and Figures report, updated annually in the spring, is available at alz.org/facts.
The Alzheimer's Association is the world's leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer care, support and research. Our 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. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer's. For more information, visit www.alz.org.