November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month as well as National Family Caregivers Month.
Did you know that there are more than five million Americans living with Alzheimer’s? Or that there are 16 million Americans providing (unpaid) care to those with Alzheimer’s or other dementias? Those are the figures according to the Alzheimer’s Association.1
Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease that affects memory as well as thinking and behavior. It is a type of dementia where, over time, its symptoms interfere with daily tasks. Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, the symptoms can be treated.
Be Aware of the Signs
Most people are familiar with one sign of Alzheimer’s in particular – memory loss. But, there are a number of warning signs and symptoms of the disease. Among them:
- Difficulty concentrating. It takes a longer time to complete things.
- Difficulty with problem solving. Working with numbers may be challenging.
- Trouble driving to a familiar place or completing tasks that are familiar.
- Losing items and not being able to retrace steps to find them again.
- Losing track of the passage of time and the seasons.
- Asking the same questions repeatedly. Trouble following and engaging in conversation.
- Mood and personality changes.
- Poor judgement.
If you notice changes in yourself or in a family member, don’t delay. Make an appointment with your doctor. To learn more about Alzheimer’s and for a comprehensive list of signs and symptoms, visit www.alz.org.
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease can be overwhelming. Family caregivers face a number of challenges on a daily basis. It is imperative that family caregivers pay attention to their own well-being. Getting involved with a caregiver support group is an important step. Old Colony Elder Services (OCES), which is designated as one of 25 Aging Services Access Points (ASAPs) in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, offers a Family Caregiver Support Program as well as a virtual Alzheimer’s and Dementia support group to provide support, advice and guidance to caregivers and families.
OCES’ Family Caregiver Support Program (FCSP) provides FREE one-on-one support, which includes a personalized plan outlining OCES’ available resources as well as community resources that are applicable to an individual’s caregiving situation. Educational workshops or programs that share techniques to help family caregivers with stress reduction, time management, goal setting, problem-solving, relaxation and more are among these caregiver support group resources.
OCES’ virtual Alzheimer’s and Dementia Support Group is specifically for people caring for someone with memory impairment. Caregivers are able to share their experiences and receive practical advice. They also learn strategies to deal with common challenges and further improve their coping and self-care skills.
OCES’ Healthy Living Program offers The UCLA Longevity Center Memory Training Program that is designed for those who wish to improve or maintain their memory ability. The goals of the Memory Training Program are to help participants develop good memory habits and to teach techniques to improve memory. The strategies taught are effective in improving memory in older adults with normal, age-related memory challenges.
The role of a family caregiver will change over time as Alzheimer’s disease progresses. Know that there are many resources available to help.
For more information about OCES’ Family Caregiver Support Program and the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Support Group, or if you are in need of services, contact OCES’ Information and Referral Department at 508-584-1561.
1Alzheimer’s Association. (n.d.) Facts and Figures. https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/facts-figures