November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and Family Caregiver Month

By Michele James
S.C. Dept. of Health & Environmental Control
Division of Healthy Aging

November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and Family Caregiver Month. Given the close relationship between the two observances — many with Alzheimer’s are fortunate to have committed caregivers — it seems natural for them to occur during the same month.

Raising awareness about Alzheimer’s

The Division of Healthy Aging is partnering with the Alzheimer’s Association to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s Disease and evidence-based messages about risk reduction.

From 2000 to 2010, South Carolina’s older adult population grew by 32.1 percent, putting the state in the top 10 fastest growing older adult populations.  South Carolina has the 6th highest Alzheimer’s disease rate in the nation.  In 2015, 17.3 percent of South Carolinians 65 and older had Alzheimer’s  disease; by 2025 the percentage will go up to 48.1 percent.

Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, a general term used to describe various diseases and conditions that damage brain cells. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Other types include vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and frontotemporal dementia. In some cases, a person may have more than one type and are said to have mixed dementia.

The most important risk factors — age, family history and heredity — can’t be changed, but emerging evidence suggests there may be other factors we can influence. Research has found the health of the brain is very closely tied to the health of the body, particularly the heat.  They have found conclusively that high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity all confer greater risk for cognitive decline. However, evidence also suggests that combining good nutrition with mental, social and physical activities may have a greater benefit in maintaining or improving brain health than any single activity.

‘Take Care to Give Care’

November is National Caregivers month and the theme is “Take Care to Give Care.” There are 90 million caregivers in the United States who provide full-time or part-time care for someone with an illness, injury or disability. Caregiving has its rewards, but it can be physically and emotionally taxing.

Meeting the needs of others can mean that caregivers neglect their own wellness by not getting adequate rest or proper nutrition. Studies show caregivers are twice as likely as the general population to develop chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes asthma and other health problems due of prolonged stress.

So this November let us take the time to show our appreciation for caregivers and encourage them to take care of themselves.  Here are some things caregivers can do to relieve stress and look out for themselves:

  • Work hard to maintain personal interests, hobbies and friendships.
  • Allow yourself not be the perfect caregiver. Set reasonable expectations to lower stress.
  • Delegate some caregiving tasks to other reliable people.
  • Take a break. Short breaks, like an evening walk or relaxing bath are essential.
  • Don’t ignore signs of illness. Take Care to Give Care!

For more information/resources on caregiving, please visit: cdc.gov/aging/caregiving/resources.htm

For specific information on caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease visit the SC Alzheimer’s Association Chapter at alz.org/sc or call the toll free number 1-800-272-3900.

Also, please visit the Alzheimer Association Training and Education Center to find free online courses training.alz.org/home.

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