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'A 24-hour job:' Alzheimer's Association raises awareness about caregiving

Johnson City Press - 11/14/2017

November is National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregiver's Month.

To mark the month, the Alzheimer's Association Mid South Chapter has been working to educate folks about the struggles faced by caregivers who take care of patients suffering from Alzheimer's.

The association will also recognize and honor 730,000 family members and caregivers across the states of Tennessee and Alabama who are currently caring for 200,000 residents living with Alzheimer's.

"It is so important for families to really gather together and support one another during such a difficult disease. There are many ways to assist caregivers, whether it's going to the store to pick up groceries, helping with household tasks, or simply learning about the disease and how it affects their loved one," Tabitha Ebbert, manager of programs, said.

Being a caregiver for one of Tennessee's 110,000 patients with Alzheimer's - approximately 1,100 of whom live in Washington County - is a demanding job, according to a recent survey by the Alzheimer's Association.

More than 60 percent of Alzheimer's caregivers expect to continue their responsibilities for the next five years, compared with less than half of caregivers of people without dementia.

More than a third of Alzheimer's caregivers report a decline in their mental health. For caregivers of patients without dementia, this number is 19 percent. Compared to 35 percent of caregivers who help other patients without dementia, 49 percent consider themselves to be "highly" stressed, with 44 percent reporting high anxiety.

Ebbert said many also report depression.

"It's a very tiring disease to give care for. Essentially, you're watching the 'long goodbye,'" she said. "You're watching the person you knew become somebody else."

The responsibilities of caregiving fall disproportionately on women. Approximately 66 percent of caregivers are women, and according to the 2015 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance survey, more than twice as many women caregivers spend more than 40 hours a week providing care.

Ebbert said it's important for patients with Alzheimer's and caregivers to maintain a strong network of family and friends to help alleviate these hardships. Staying in touch with the family church, for instance, is a perfect example of maintaining a vital sense of community.

"Just remember that they are still the same person," she said. "They still need those connections and friendships. This is the time they need them most."

She said the job of caregiving is a "24-hour job," and this job can often lead to isolation, as it is difficult for caregivers to find time to spend with their friends or time for themselves.

Due to the immense responsibility of caregiving, Ebbert said it is important not to put all of the responsibilities on one person's shoulders.

"To be able to have somebody step in and just offer supper, or have a normal conversation or go to the grocery store - that can really help a caregiver by giving them time for themselves," she said.

The Alzheimer's Association has four local support groups in Johnson City:

Third Thursday of each month,10 a.m.

The Courtyards Senior Living, 2109 E Lakeview Drive

First Tuesday of each month, 10 a.m.

Pine Oaks & Magnolia Crossing Asst. Living, 213 University Pkwy.

Third Tuesday of each month, 6 p.m.

AGAPE Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, 105 E. Myrtle Ave.

Second and Fourth Friday of each month, 11 a.m.

Mall at Johnson City Health Resource Center Early Onset Support Group

For more information on the Alzheimer Association's local support groups and other services, call the Kingsport office at 423.928.4080 or their 24-hour helpline at 800-272-3900.

Other organizations, such as Alzheimer's Tennessee, offer services including a free online Caregiver Training Academy, which can be accessed by visiting www.alzTennessee.org/academy.

This organization also holds support groups in Johnson City.

Johnson City groups include:

Second Thursday of each month, 3 p.m.

Dominion Senior Living, 2412 Knob Creek Road

Third Thursday of each month, 6 p.m.

Brookdale Johnson City, 2003 Water's Edge Drive

Fourth Monday of each month, 6:30 p.m. (Men's only group)

The Courtyards Senior Living, 2109 E. Lakeview Drive

For more information on Alzheimer's Tennessee's support groups and other consultation services, call the Johnson City office at 423-232-8993 or their 24-hour help line at 888-259-4283.

Follow Brandon Paykamian on Twitter at @PaykamianJCP. Like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/PaykamianJCP.


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