Some days you lose track of your wallet.
Other days you can’t remember how to prepare a meal. You are an individual with dementia, a condition that interferes with your brain cells communicating well with each other. And you are not alone.
Every three seconds, another case of dementia occurs somewhere in the world.
Almost 50 million people worldwide are known to have dementia, which is the name for a group of progressive brain syndromes that affect thinking, memory, behavior and emotion. Among the over 100 forms of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease is the most widespread, accounting for 60 to 80 percent of all dementia cases.
An estimated 5.7 million people in America are living with Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s Disease International, an umbrella organization of some 90 Alzheimer’s associations around the globe, notes, “Dementia is the leading cause of disability and dependency among the elderly.”
Early-onset dementia can affect individuals younger than 65, but the majority of individuals with dementia are seniors. The Alzheimer’s Association in the U.S. reports that one in three American seniors dies from Alzheimer’s or other dementia.
To help with dementia awareness and research and ease the stigma that dementia patients and their families often face, Alzheimer’s Disease International designates September as World Alzheimer’s Month, and Sept. 21 is World Alzheimer’s Day.
Standing Together Against Dementia
Although currently there is no cure for dementia, a number of treatments and support are available. The following tips can help family caregivers restore equilibrium in their own lives and in daily caregiving routines:
Foster a team of support and community. Recognize your need for help and accept help regularly. Show your vulnerability and lean on other family members, neighbors and in-home professional care with the more challenging responsibilities.
Know your limits. Allow yourself to be human and realize that you will not always deliver perfect care. Some days will feel a bit more off-balance.
Be realistic on what you can and cannot do in your caregiving role.
Build in leisure time and playtime. Being intentional about respite care is important for the long-term success in caring for a loved one with dementia.
Do not neglect downtime and opportunities to socialize with others. The practice of deep breathing and mindfulness is another solution in quieting a stressed brain and body.
Guard your own health. Family caregivers are at greater risk for elevated blood pressure, higher insulin levels and cardiovascular disease.
Stress levels often rise with the day-to-day demands of caregiving. It is imperative that you continue your own physical checkups and health maintenance goals.
Alzheimer’s and Dementia Resources
• Alzheimer’s Association The leading health organization with local chapters nationwide offers a number of help and support resources including a 24/7 helpline at 800-272-3900.
• Local Area Agency on Aging Providing a suite of services for elders and their family caregivers, the agency can help find local support or access to support groups and caregiver training.
• Hospital Social Workers If your loved one is hospitalized for any reason, you can request that a social worker talk with you before your loved one is discharged. Social workers can refer you to community resources that you may not know about.
• Aging Life Care Specialist This private practitioner is a social worker who can help navigate the logistics of caregiving for a fee.
Caring for a loved one living with Alzheimer’s or other dementia can be incredibly rewarding, the key is securing a network of support to help you and your loved one experience the best quality of life possible.
Gregg Balbera, owner of Right at Home, in-home care and assistance for seniors and adults with disabilities