Chances are that you know someone or are in close proximity to someone who is caring for a family member with memory loss. Maybe you are the one in these shoes. About 14 percent of elderly suffer from some kind of dementia, and 11 percent of those are Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is a specifically difficult disease for caregivers to deal with especially if they are doing it alone. Anyone who is taking care of a loved one with this disease would surely not turn away some help. Sometimes asking someone what you can do to help is overwhelming. If they are already stressed and overwhelmed they may not know how you can help. The following are a few ideas to get you started if you know someone in need.
Visit and Listen
This one is one of the easiest to do, but could be very helpful to someone who is confined to their home most of the time with someone who cannot verbally communicate or connect with them. The burdens that a caregiver carries can be heavy, and being able to explain that to someone else can be very relieving. Talking with the person can also give you a better idea of what other help they may need and if there are any tasks you could help with. You do not need to be an expert in Alzheimer’s to be a good listening ear. A journal is a good gift idea for a caregiver so that even during those times when you or someone else cannot be there to listen, they can record their thoughts and feelings.
Pick up Groceries
These days you can do grocery shopping from your phone. An easy way to save a caregiver time would be to offer to pick up a grocery order for them. You wouldn’t have to worry about a list and what they need, you simply have to be at the right place at the right time. This would take a short amount of time for yourself, and you could kill two birds with one stone while picking up your own grocery order. It is difficult for most caregivers to leave the home seeing as how people with this disease require nearly constant care. Depending on their physical decline they may not be able to get in and out of the car easily.
Deliver a meal
Along the same lines of picking up groceries would be to go to the next step and actually prepare a meal for them. This could be as easy as making extra of whatever your family is having and delivering a portion to the caregiver’s family. It can get tiring having to not only think of what to make, but to get the groceries, plan the time, and clean up afterward. A good idea would be to provide dishes that could be thrown away so that clean up is easier. If you do not feel like cooking is your forte you could supply the support person with a gift card for takeout or delivery.
This is an easy option for those who live close. If you are driving by and notice an unkempt yard that looks like it could use some TLC, why not grab your lawnmower and bring it over to mow the lawn. You could also pull some weeds, rake some leaves, or whatever else you can see that needs to be done. If you have kids of your own, this could be a great opportunity for a family service project. Along the same lines, home improvements or changes may need to be made to accommodate a wheelchair or a hospital bed. You could also offer to help with these projects if they exist.
Daycare or Respite Care
Doing some research on facilities in the area that provide this service can be a relief for a caregiver. If the caregiver already has something set up, it could be very helpful to offer to drive the Alzheimer’s person to daycare or respite care. TheBrighamCity Memory Care facility offers daycare and respite options for loved ones in the Northern Utah area. These stays can range from a few hours to a few weeks. This way if the caregiver needs to leave town and you do not feel comfortable taking over care, you can still offer to help by driving them to a facility with trained staff.
Offer to Watch Them in Your Home
While this is something that can be extremely helpful, it can also seem extremely overwhelming. If you do not feel comfortable doing this, then do not offer. However, if you have had any kids it is a lot like babysitting. People with Alzheimer’s decrease back to toddler and eventually infant ability and cognitive level. Even just a short time out of the house so the caregiver can run errands, do things around the house or just have a minute to themselves for fun and relaxation can preserve the mental health of this overly taxing position.
One thing is for sure. Anything you do will be better and more helpful and more meaningful than doing nothing. However big or small your act of service and concern may be, the caregiver will know that they are seen. Knowing someone recognizes the burden that they have and knowing who to turn to when they are in need is what is more important than the act of help. In today’s world we are often so busy with our own lives that we fail to look around at those who are struggling. Most of these things would not take a very large portion of our day and could mean a world of difference to someone who is struggling. If you are a caregiver and do not have anyone close by that you feel like you could ask for help or would be willing to help, look into respite and day care options to maintain your own physical, mental, social and emotional wellness. Self care is just as important as the care that you are giving to your loved one.