Comment: Families living with Alzheimer’s can find support

For a job that no one asks for, it’s vital for family caregivers to know where to take their questions.

By Charles J. Fuschillo Jr. / For The Herald

Imagine getting a job where you are charged with being responsible for another person’s health, well-being and safety, without ever having applied for it?

You’re required to be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and involved in making significant decisions regarding that individual’s medical, financial and legal wishes. On top of that, you’ll receive no training before starting and earn no paycheck for the duration of employment.

For more than 120,000 families in Washington state, and more than 6 million across the United States, this is not a hypothetical situation: they’re living this job every day caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. A lack of support only makes a challenging situation harder; as Seattle resident and dementia caregiver Nancy Simsons noted in a May 28 letter to Pacific NW magazine, people often have fewer connections with others as they age.

Caring for someone with a dementia-related illness is not something that anyone can, or should, do entirely by themselves. Resources are available to help them with the physical, mental, and emotional challenges of performing this unpaid labor of love. It’s vital that caregivers know about and take advantage of them.

Like anyone learning on the job, caregivers have questions: “what do I do now?” right after the diagnosis, “how do I communicate with someone who has memory loss?” and “how do I keep my loved one safe?” All are common. There is no shame or embarrassment in seeking help with getting answers to these questions.

Knowledge and a support network are two of the best tools at a caregiver’s disposal. Understanding Alzheimer’s disease and its symptoms, knowing how (and why) to build a support structure, and preparing for the major decisions associated with Alzheimer’s disease are all things that can help make a difficult situation a little easier. Connecting caregivers with this type of useful, practical information is one of the most important things we can do.

Scientists are working hard toward finding a cure for Alzheimer’s, but until that time comes, care remains essential. Family caregivers embrace the enormous responsibility of caring for a loved one in their time of need, and they do an incredible job. In the fight against Alzheimer’s disease, they are on the front lines. They shouldn’t be afraid to seek reinforcements.

Charles J. Fuschillo Jr., is the president and chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.

Seattle conference

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America’s Educating America Tour is hosting a free Alzheimer’s and Caregiving Educational Conference on Wednesday, June 14 at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Seattle. Learn more and register by going to or by calling 866-232-8484.

If you can’t attend but have questions about Alzheimer’s or caregiving, guidance and support is available through our Helpline by calling 866-232-8484, sending a text message to 646-586-5283, or web chatting at our website,; it’s staffed by licensed social workers and open seven days a week.

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