February 23, 2020

Shining light on Alzheimer’s caregiver challenges

Observer courtesy photo Caregivers on the steps of City Hall in Burlington last Wednesday.

Observer courtesy photo
Caregivers on the steps of City Hall in Burlington last Wednesday.

Association launches caregiver support group

The summer solstice, with its 16 hours of daylight, symbolizes the challenges faced by people living with Alzheimer’s or dementia and their loved ones who care for them. Last Wednesday, 16 caregivers mounted the steps of Burlington’s City Hall. Each person held up a sign that listed a daily task of caregiving, such as “give medication,” “bathe,” “pay bills” or “prepare meal.”

They later turned the signs over to show a characteristic of caregiving, such as “patience,” “understanding,” “tenacity” and “advocacy.”

While the caregivers held their silent vigil, Sara Byers, President of Leonardo’s Pizza, reflected on her family’s personal journey with Alzheimer’s disease. In the mid-’80’s, Byers served as a page in the Vermont legislature when she met Sen. Harvey Carter, Jr. from Bennington – a “larger than life personality” according to Byers and a man who, one day, would become her step-father. Her mother and Harvey fell in love and married, and in 2009, Harvey was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

“I have been witness to the most magnificent depiction of love I have ever seen. The love my mom has shown as a caregiver,” Byers said at the event. “The caregivers standing behind me today reveal some of the many qualities caregivers find within themselves.”

New findings from an Alzheimer’s Association survey, released in conjunction with Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, show that while people overwhelmingly agree it often takes a village to provide care for someone living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, far too many caregivers are doing it alone. The survey found two out of three caregivers felt isolated or alone in their situation, and more than four in five caregivers would have liked more support with caregiving tasks, particularly from their family.

To accommodate the needs of individuals who are unable to travel to a support group meeting site, the Alzheimer’s Association, Vermont Chapter has launched a new telephone support group. Led by volunteer facilitators, the Vermont Telephone Caregiver Support Group is held monthly on the second Tuesday of each month from 4 – 5:30 p.m. To learn more or to register, contact Pamela Beidler, director of programs and outreach, at 316-3839, ext. 8011 or pbeidler@alz.org. Anyone seeking answers about Alzheimer’s disease or dementia can call the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 helpline (800-272-3900) or access local resources at alz.org/vermont.

As part of The Longest Day Rally on Church Street, the Alzheimer’s Association Vermont Chapter and Kinney Drugs announced the “Care For A Caregiver” campaign. Through June 30, anyone can register a caregiver – even themselves — to receive a free care package delivered to their home courtesy of Kinney Drugs.

“The Longest Day is all about love,” said Jane Mitchell, development director. “We’re pleased to partner with local Kinney Drugs stores to send a little love to caregivers in our community.”

To request a “Care For A Caregiver” delivery, visit alz.org/Vermont or call the Vermont Chapter at 316-3839.

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