LANSING, Mich. — One of the most significant challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic for the more than 5 million American families affected by Alzheimer’s disease has been the major disruption to in-person caregiving support services. With the increased pressure of caring for a loved one without having access to these services driving caregivers closer to the breaking point, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) is letting caregivers know about steps they can take to find additional support.
“The impacts of COVID-19 added a tremendous amount of stress on caregivers for individuals with Alzheimer’s—there is minimal access to services like respite care and adult day programs, and friends and relatives cannot visit. All of these provide sources of support and opportunities for the caregivers to take a moment for themselves,” said Jennifer Reeder, LCSW, AFA’s Director of Educational and Social Services. “Weeks of being confined at home, with fewer opportunities to recharge, is accelerating caregiver burnout, but we want caregivers to know there are steps they can take to make things a little better and help them continue to move forward.”
AFA offers the following tips to individuals caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease:
“Look for the helpers”- Other family members or close friends who are part of the care team can still be helpful from afar. They can make phone calls/arrangements, help with bill-paying or other financial and legal matters. Additionally, trusted members of the care team can assist the primary caregiver in making decisions and give a helpful “outside perspective.” Don’t be afraid to ask them for help.
Expand your support network- A strong support system is essential for family caregivers. Adding a few more “helping hands” can make a difference. For example, some nonprofits and religious congregations offer services like grocery shopping or meal delivery. Neighbors who are not part of the regular “care team” but are friendly with you and your loved one could spend a little time with your loved one in the backyard (while practicing appropriate social distancing) so that you can focus on something else. The larger your network, the stronger it becomes.
Express your feelings- Emotional support is just as important as physical and logistical support. Having a trusted loved one or friend to “vent” to is important. Speaking with professionals can also be helpful—AFA’s Helpline is staffed entirely by licensed social workers who can be reached seven days a week by calling 866-232-8484 or web chatting through AFA’s website, www.alzfdn.org [alzfdn.org]. Bottling up your emotions only adds to stress levels, so be sure to find constructive ways to “let it out.”
AFA’s Helpline, staffed entirely by licensed social workers trained in dementia care, is open seven days a week to help provide additional tips about reducing stress, caregiving during the coronavirus pandemic and more. The Helpline can be reached by calling 866-232-8484 or visiting www.alzfdn.org [alzfdn.org] and clicking the blue and white chat icon in the right hand corner of the page. The web chat feature is able to serve individuals in more than 90 different languages.
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