Alzheimer’s Association: Caring for Caregivers

Every day when Suzanne Germaine wakes up, she says to herself, “Another day of this. I don’t know how I’m going to get through this.”

But she does continue to push through. In large part because she loves her husband of many years, who was diagnosed with dementia, an early on-set form of Alzheimer’s disease, in 2012.

“When he first went for the tests, I thought to myself, ‘I would rather he had a brain tumor’ because there’s treatment for that but there’s no treatment for Alzheimer’s.”

But when a PET scan confirmed her worst fears, Germaine found a resource and group of confidants in Alzheimer’s Association. She scoured the website for information on what to expect and began attending support groups. The services have helped her take her upended life one day at a time.

“We go to a support group once a week for an hour,” Germaine said. “He goes in one room and I go in another. It’s a wonderful opportunity to vent and talk about what’s going on, to find out you’re not alone in this and we all give each other suggestions.”

One piece of advice, given to Germaine by a facilitator when she was lamenting about how her husband puts his clothes in the wrong drawers, helps her keep life in perspective.

“[The facilitator] said, ‘I guarantee you you’re never going to let him go out to a meeting in his pajamas. Don’t worry about it. It’s just not that important.’ And I think about that all the time.”

What is important to Germaine and others in her group is savoring every last bit of time they have with their loved ones and trying to keep them as happy and comfortable as possible. It’s a daily struggle, and Germaine sometimes feels she’s fighting a losing battle, but Alzheimer’s Association’s variety of supports can help take the load off.

A helpline, which Germaine said many people in her group utilize, is available 24/7 to help caregivers understand Alzheimer’s and offer advice on topics such as legal, financial and medical treatment. Education programs, including free online and in-person classes, teach caregivers how to deal with common caregiver situations such as exhaustion and depression. Other classes focus on tips to decode verbal and behavioral cues, like wandering and repetition, in people with dementia.

Alzheimer’s Association also hosts an annual Legal & Financial Planning Conference (slated for Saturday, March 25 in Plainview this year). Though Germaine has never attended because she met with a lawyer early on, she stressed the importance of these types of programs in helping other caregivers plan ahead. Planning early lets the person with dementia participate and make choices which ensures that their wishes will be carried out. There are many things to consider like advance directives, living wills, power of attorney, guardianship and asset protection. Having the opportunity to attend a free conference and listen to top elder care attorneys present this information is invaluable.

For Germaine, the biggest value of Alzheimer’s Association is that the staff and volunteers are her allies.

“When you speak with someone’s who works for Alzheimer’s Association, they get to know you on a personal level…The know my husband and how to handle him. Other places don’t have that. I don’t know what people would do without it.”

If You Go:

Free Legal & Financial Planning Conference

When: Saturday, March 25, 8:30am-1:30pm (brunch will be served)
Where: Plainview Holiday Inn, 215 Sunnyside Blvd., Plainview
Register: 800-272-3900