21 Nov Helping the Helpers: Supporting Alzheimers and Dementia Caregivers
For Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, we’d like to shine a light on an important group in our community that often goes unseen: selfless individuals who care for loved ones with Alzheimers or dementia. Often, these caregivers struggle to navigate convoluted systems and find culturally appropriate support and resources. This was the case for Sandy*.
“Uncle Frank wasn’t feeling well and asked me to come over and stay with my Aunt Mary so he could go to the doctor. As I walked into his room, Uncle Frank collapsed next to the bed where Aunt Mary lay sleeping. I called 911 and tried CPR, but he was gone. He held on just long enough for me to get there and take over Aunt Mary’s care. Uncle Frank had cared for Aunt Mary during her decline into dementia without ever letting the family know how hard it was for him. It’s just not something our community talks about. Even in his final hours, Uncle Frank waited until morning to call me because he didn’t want to be a burden in the middle of the night. This is how I found myself suddenly and unexpectedly the primary caregiver of someone with advanced dementia…and I really didn’t have the first clue about what to do.” – Sandy
Fortunately, Sandy found a lifeline with LTSC’s Caregiver Support Group. This culturally sensitive group of fellow caregivers provides a safe and confidential space where members receive moral support, as well as caregiving workshops and access to expert speakers. When Sandy joined LTSC’s Caregiver Support Group, she learned how a person suffering from dementia may experience not just memory loss, but confusion or even a complete change of personality. She also learned about warning signs to look out for and actions she could take to make her aunt feel calm and safe. Becoming her aunt’s caregiver was often traumatic and frustrating for Sandy, but the support group allowed her to share her fears, accomplishments and even small joys.
“LTSC’s caregiver support group is like a gift from Heaven and is something I look forward to [attending] every time,” shared Sandy.
As dementia rates continue to increase in our community’s aging population, there is an urgent need to support our services in this area. With culturally sensitive caregiver support groups, care consultations, and resource materials, LTSC is dedicated to being able to help people like Sandy learn how to best care for their loved ones.
As we look forward to the holidays, caregivers can use these tips from Alzheimer’s Los Angeles (https://www.alzheimersla.org/holiday-tips-for-caregivers-2023/) to make the season brighter.
*Names of clients have been changed for confidentiality.