November is National Family Caregivers Month. In our state, there are 39,000 individuals living with the disease and 72,000 unpaid caregivers. These caregivers, along with more than 11 million family members and friends nationwide, are currently caring for a person living with Alzheimer’s.
There are numerous reasons that all of us in West Virginia should be aware of, and concerned about, the challenges faced by those who care for individuals who are living with Alzheimer’s.
Caregiving for someone with memory loss is exceptionally demanding. Alzheimer’s caregivers are often managing multiple conditions, not only memory loss, but long-term physical conditions, including gradual loss of mobility, emotional issues, and behavioral and personality changes.
Alzheimer’s caregivers experience greater stress and personal health problems. High or very high emotional stress was reported by 59% of dementia caregivers, and 35% said their health declined due to caregiving responsibilities. A recent national poll found 27% of caregivers for people with dementia delayed or did not do things they should for their own health.
Caregiving’s impact on employment. Caregiving responsibilities caused 57% of caregivers to report to work late or leave early, and 18% had to reduce their work hours, while 9% gave up working entirely.
On average, individuals live four to eight years following their diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. That is a long time for family caregivers who must juggle competing priorities including work and other family responsibilities.
This November, the Alzheimer’s Association West Virginia Chapter is asking our community to reach out and lend a hand to our caregivers whenever possible.
Take time to support a caregiver you know. Run errands, help with a household chore, give caregivers a break by spending time with the person with Alzheimer’s. These small gestures can make a big difference and offer well-deserved support to those who give so much.
Educate yourself about the disease. The more you know, the easier it will be to help. Reach out to the Alzheimer’s Association West Virginia Chapter to learn more and get involved.
There are more than 6 million people in the U.S. living with Alzheimer’s, a progressive, fatal brain disease that kills nerve cells and tissues in the brain, affecting an individual’s ability to remember, think, plan, speak, walk. Yet the disease impacts many thousands more beyond those diagnosed including the family and friends who are unpaid caregivers.
During November, help us recognize Alzheimer’s caregivers for all they do every day to support people living with dementia. Little acts can make a big difference. Individuals can share a tribute in honor of a special caregiver at alz.org/honor.
Sharon Covert is executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association West Virginia Chapter.