In this season in which we celebrate family, togetherness, and years of happy memories, it is perhaps appropriate that we also celebrate November as both National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month.  Although there is much to be grateful for, this time of year can be especially difficult for those whose memories are fading faster than they should and for those providing day-to-day care for loved ones who no longer have the independence they once enjoyed.

According to the National Alzheimer’s Association, It is estimated that 5.3 million Americans currently have Alzheimer’s Disease, 5.1 million of them over age sixty-five and two-thirds of them women.  Alzheimer’s ranks among the top ten causes of death in the United States, and it is the only condition in the top ten which cannot be prevented, slowed down, or cured.  Both living with Alzheimer’s and providing care for someone who has been diagnosed present families and individuals with unique emotional, medical, and financial challenges.  The Alzheimer’s Association and Alzheimer’s Tennessee provide great information and resources to help diagnosed individuals and their loved ones learn about and cope with the disease.  In celebration of Family Caregivers Month, the Alzheimer’s Association’s  “Honor a Caregiver” page also offers opportunities to leave tributes for those providing care to loved ones with Alzheimer’s Disease.  In addition to celebrating caregivers, this page also offers links to find caregiver information and support, helpful resources, and information about your local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

According to a survey conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 45% of adults over age 40 have at some point provided ongoing living assistance for a loved one.  Some studies show an even higher rate of adults providing long-term care for their loved ones.  Caregivers consistently report detrimental effects on their work lives and stress levels due to the burden of caregiving.  The Caregiver Action Network (CAN) has chosen “RESPITE” as its theme for Family Caregivers Month.  Respite is not just a luxury; it is a necessity to help the caregiver maintain his or her good health and to extend the time that care can be received at home rather than in a long-term care facility.  Respite can take many forms, from carving out a little time to do yoga or watch a movie to taking big steps like hiring an in-home caregiver.  We have seen hired caregivers make a world of difference for our clients and our own families, and we can recommend several local caregiving services if you are ready to take that step.

For both people with dementia and long-term caregivers, one of the most important ways to maintain good health and financial stability is to plan ahead and seek appropriate help when needed.  Rather than trying to go it alone, both patients and caregivers should take advantage of the vast resources available online and in the community.  Sometimes that also means seeking advice from legal, financial, and care professionals to ensure that all the loose ends are tied up and everyone in the family is prepared to deal with whatever future issues may arise.

If you are ready to get some help but don’t know where to start, contact us at Elder Law of East Tennessee.  Our professional care coordinators are available to help manage care and plan for the future while maintaining maximum independence.  They are also well-versed in resources to help alleviate the caregiver burden.  Our legal team is ready to help you cover the rest, from asset protection strategies to tailoring your financial and health care documents to ensure that all your needs and wishes are met.  We will help to get you started on the right path and guide you along the way so that you can better enjoy the peace of this season and the memories you continue to build with your loved ones throughout the holidays.