By Shelly Gattlieb
The holiday season involves many changes to normal routines, and for caregivers, this can be an especially challenging time.
Maria Holmes serves as the program manager for the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, a role that focuses on providing support for caregivers and families. During the holidays, Holmes said that even small changes, such as letting guests know what to expect, can make a huge difference in planning and accommodating.
“Caregivers often feel guilty about taking breaks, but they need to do it for their own health and to make them a better caregiver as well,” Holmes said.
Of the 5.8 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s, approximately 200,000 have younger-onset Alzheimer’s, which means that the disease affected them before the age of 65. Carmel resident Kara Hanley’s mother, Cheryl, was diagnosed at age 47, and the disease took her life at just 53. When the family first began noticing behavioral changes, they assumed it to be menopausal, but the symptoms became increasingly concerning.
With the help of a grant provided by the Alzheimer’s Association, Cheryl was able to receive assistance from outside caregivers and remain living in her home through her entire journey. Another goal was Cheryl’s attendance at Hanley’s wedding, a moment they were able to share together and one that Hanley will always treasure.
Although Hanley experienced frustrating times, she encourages people to embrace the positive moments and avoid comparing someone else’s journey to your own.
“The biggest thing we learned was to be patient and to still laugh at the joke the 47th time you’ve heard it,” Hanley said.
Local support groups can serve as a valuable resource for caregivers, where they may receive recommendations for services and learn strategies.
Learn more at alz.org or call the 24-hour careline at 800-272-3900.