Chances are, you personally know someone who is impacted by Alzheimer’s disease, either as a patient or a caregiver. In 2020, projections show that 95,000 people in the state of South Carolina will suffer from the incurable condition. According to data from the Alzheimer’s Association, reported cases of Alzheimer’s are expected to increase by 26% between 2020 and 2025.
Sometimes, Alzheimer’s patients receive care from skilled nurses in assisted living or medical facilities. Most often, however, care comes from a family member, friend or neighbor. The Alzheimer’s Association reported in 2019, “83% of the help provided to older adults in the United States comes from family members, friends, or other unpaid caregivers.” This equates to $244 billion in unpaid care.
In South Carolina, the Alzheimer’s Association estimates that over 318,000 people serve as caregivers.
Caregiving is a loving and selfless commitment, but it can take a toll emotionally and physically. It’s critical for caregivers to reach out and acknowledge that the job is too much for one person, said Emilee Padget, lifestyle advisor of care services at Wellmore of Daniel Island. “Caregivers work 24/7; they have a constant responsibility and they need an opportunity to find a reprieve and recharge.”
To address this need, Wellmore, located on Robert Daniel Drive, hosts a free, monthly Alzheimer’s Association Caregiver Support Group. The group usually meets in the facility’s library on the second Wednesday of each month at 10:30 a.m., though currently gatherings are suspended for COVID-19 concerns.
In partnership with Home Instead Senior Care, Elizabeth McDermott, a trained facilitator through the Alzheimer’s Association, joins the group to help attendees exchange information, share experiences, and learn about resources available in the community. The group offers a comfortable and confidential place for caregivers, family, and friends of persons with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, to meet and develop a mutual support system.
It is not a formal counseling session. The peers rely on one another and share information. Wellmore can recommend additional resources for counseling if group members are in need. Padget said that the growing group is ideal for new parties seeking support because the group is welcoming, flexible, and understands the value of building relationships.
Padget added that the Alzheimer’s Association has grants available to pay for a qualified sitter to be brought into the home so that caregivers can leave to attend meetings and receive support. To request an application for a sitter service, call 800-272-3900 at least two weeks in advance of the meeting date.
To learn more about the support group at Wellmore, contact McDermott at 843-696-6671.
COVID-19: Tips for Dementia Caregivers
Source: Alzheimer’s Association
Most likely, dementia does not increase risk for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus, just like dementia does not increase risk for flu, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. However, dementia-related behaviors, increased age and common health conditions that often accompany dementia are a concern.
For example, people with Alzheimer’s disease and all other dementia may forget to wash their hands or take other recommended precautions to prevent illness. In addition, diseases like COVID-19 and the flu may worsen cognitive impairment due to dementia.
Caregivers of individuals living with Alzheimer’s and all other dementia should follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and consider the following tips:
For people living with dementia, increased confusion is often the first symptom of any illness. If a person shows rapidly increased confusion, contact your health care provider for advice.
People living with dementia may need extra and/or written reminders and support to remember important hygienic practices from one day to the next. Consider placing signs in the bathroom and elsewhere to remind them to wash their hands with soap for 20 seconds, and also demonstrate
thorough hand-washing. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if the person can’t get to a sink or wash hands easily.
Think ahead: Try filling prescriptions for a greater number of days to reduce trips to the pharmacy; plan for alternate care plans for cancellations of adult daycare; and have arrangements in place in case the primary caregiver becomes ill and must be separated from the patient.