Twenty five years ago, the late President Ronald Reagan proclaimed November as National Alzheimer’s Disease Month. He was courageous in announcing his own Alzheimer’s diagnosis in 1994, and 10 years later, he died from the disease. As defined on the Mayo Clinic Web site, Alzheimer’s is a progressive, irreversible, incurable neurological disorder that causes losses of memory and mental abilities – eventually leading to dementia.
Having lost my grandmother and father to this disease, I have seen firsthand the devastation Alzheimer’s can do, not just to the individual who has been diagnosed, but to the family as well. I believe it is imperative that we support not only the funding of research for a cure for Alzheimer’s, but that we also take time and support caregivers who are currently living with and taking care of persons with Alzheimer’s.
It can sometimes be very lonely and isolating when you are the only one who sees on a daily basis how your loved one is deteriorating, and it is often very hard for caregivers to reach out – most caregivers just won’t ask for help.
If you know someone who is a caregiver, or who has someone in their family who has been diagnosed with this disease, please take the time this month to encourage them.
Ask them how they are doing, not just how the person is that they are taking care of. Let them talk about their frustrations and struggles – they need to be able to acknowledge their feelings and feel validated, and to know that someone cares enough to listen.
Offer to do something specific for them, like make a meal and take it over; offer to sit with their loved one for an hour or even thirty minutes so that they can have a few minutes to themselves.
Drop them a note in the mail, invite them to dinner.
You will be very surprised at how welcome your support is, and at how making a simple gesture will bless you, as well as the caregiver.
Chairperson, Terrebonne Parish Advisory Committee for Persons with Disabilities