About 10 million of the almost 45 million caregivers in the United States care for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. Most of these caregivers are not prepared for their new role, which takes a toll on their mental and physical health. Furthermore, Alzheimer’s disease is often called a “family disease,” because the daily stress of watching a loved one slowly decline affects the whole family.

The typical caregiver is a female, mid-40s, who spends more than 20 hours per week caring for a loved one who lives nearby. Because of the amount of time they devote to caregiving, more than half have to make major adjustments to their work life or quit work entirely.

Due to the demands of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, caregivers tend to neglect their own health care and well-being. All caregivers need to take steps to preserve their own health, such as taking personal time each day to rest and relax and making doctor’s appointments for themselves.

Community support programs help caregivers learn how to improve communication with their loved one, deal with unwanted behaviors, prepare financially and keep their loved one safe. One educational resource available to help caregivers is the Alliance’s workshop kit, Helping Yourself Help A Loved One.

In addition, The Family Caregiver Alliance’s National Center on Caregiving provides information on state and national policy initiatives aimed at helping caregivers ease the financial and emotional burden of their new role, through publicly-funded support programs. You can also check out the Family Caregiver Alliance for a state-by-state guide to community resources.

This post was written by Valerie Hagan, former Health Programs Coordinator at the Alliance.