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Recognition in November

November is the month when we focus on two vital and related issues: family caregivers and Alzheimer’s disease.

All too often, we see caregivers with a mindset of having to “go-it-alone.” They focus on their immediate caregiving obligations and how they alone can fulfill them. But this is exhausting, and, ultimately, doesn’t help their loved ones either.

Caregivers have a deep bond with the loved ones they are aiding. They furnish a unique, close connection and form of comfort. But caregivers need to understand that asking for help is not a sign of weakness, lack of commitment, or diminished affection. “No man is an island,” the old poem reminds us. Caregivers cannot help others continually and effectively unless they take care of themselves by getting enough rest, recreation, and support.

Experts say families play a major role in delivering care to older adults and people with disabilities of all ages. Many caregivers are age 50 or older and juggle the demands of family and career with caregiving. As a result, they are vulnerable to stress, anxiety, and depression. Elder Services and our Healthy Living Center of Excellence (HLCE) have a variety of resources, available in-person and by remote delivery, to aid area caregivers in finding a caregiving/life balance and gaining more perspective on their situation.

Here are some:

Trualta: This e-learning platform is free to caregivers thanks to a grant from the Administration for Community Living. Trualta delivers instructive advice for people caregiving in their own homes. It covers such topics as preventing falls, transferring someone to and from a bed or a chair/wheelchair, and managing the difficult behavior of people with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. Trualta provides healthcare-level training for family members and other caregivers.

Family Caregiver Support: This Elder Services program includes tools, education, and support to help attendees balance the routine of caregiving while maintaining their strength and morale. The program consists of counseling, workshops, support groups, and more.

Savvy Caregiver Program: This is a six-week training from the Healthy Living Center specifically for individuals caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia.

Approximately 5.7 million Americans have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, according to Unicity Healthcare. By 2050, experts estimate this number will mushroom to 15 million. Alzheimer’s now accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases nationally. While the majority of those afflicted are age 65 or older, 200,000 younger Americans live with the early-onset form of the disease.

As Alzheimer’s progresses, people may lose the ability to talk and respond to their surroundings. The National Institute on Aging ranks Alzheimer’s as the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. While no cure exists for Alzheimer’s, programs like those mentioned give families a means of dealing with its challenges.

This month, as we honor family caregivers and raise awareness about Alzheimer’s disease, it’s a great time to reach out to Elder Services and learn about the variety of programs that support caregivers.

Are you struggling to care for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our experienced staff is available to help. Visit us online at www.ESMV.org for more information. You can also call us at 1-800-892-0890 or email info@esmv.org. Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and North Shore.