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Expanded training coming for Alzheimers

FAIRMONT– The Alzheimer’s Association’s facts and figures for 2021 says there are more than six million people in America living with Alzheimer’s disease and the number is expected to grow to 13 million by 2050.

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, along with Senator Susan Collins from Maine, recently reintroduced the Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Act to expand training and support services for families and caregivers of patients with Alzheimer’s and related dementias.

This legislation would authorize grants to public and non-profit organizations to expand training and support services that improve caregiver health and delay long-term care facility admissions by keeping loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias in their homes longer.

Pre-Covid-19 pandemic, Fairmont volunteer organization, CREST offered an Alzheimer’s/dementia caregivers support group. While regular in-person meetings have been on hold right now, caregiver support services director, Joyce Peterson, said she can still meet one-on-one with caregivers or offer support in a phone call.

The Alzheimer’s Association reports that 11 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias.

Peterson said caregivers in the CREST support group vary.

“It’s a hard position to be in whether it’s your spouse or a parent you’re caring for,” Peterson said.

Peterson said one man in their support group had been caring for both of his parents.

“He gave up his job. He retired early to come back to the area and take care of his parents. His mom had dementia and his dad was elderly and couldn’t take care of her anymore. That was a financial burden for him along with the emotional stress and adapting to taking care of a parent in their home,” Peterson said.

Peterson acknowledged that caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia is physically, emotionally and financially stressful and the situation is different for everyone.

“If you’re determined to keep them in their home, you either have to be there with them 24/7 or hire someone to be with them when you’re not there. It’s very hard on the caregivers. They literally lose their own time. The time someone used to spend working in the garden or reading a book or soaking in the tub probably doesn’t happen anymore,” Peterson said.

Despite the stress of caring for a loved one in their own home, many caregivers may also be hesitant to move their loved one out of their familiar and comfortable environment and into a care facility.

The Alzheimer’s Association also reported that Alzheimer’s and dementia deaths have increased by 16 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unfortunately, Peterson said a lot of participants in CREST’s Alzheimer’s support group have also lost their loved one during the last year. She shared what she thinks the correlation was.

“Nobody could go into the facility and when all of a sudden the visits stopped, I think people with dementia still have a routine and suddenly it wasn’t happening,” Peterson said.

Everyone’s situation is different and it’s important to find a good routine that will work whether you’re caring for a loved one in their own home or providing support to a loved one living in a senior living facility.

Regardless of the situation, it’s widely acknowledged that caregivers need more support.

In a statement, Sen. Klobuchar said, “Watching a loved one suffer from Alzheimer’s or related dementia is heartbreaking–and we need to make sure those caring for family members have the resources and support they need.”

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