Caring Currents

Let's Call It National Alzheimer's Disease Coping Help Month

Last updated: Nov 01, 2008


The 25th annual National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month kicks off November 1. But perhaps it's time for a new name. Awareness is no longer the problem it was 25 years ago. Everybody knows a family touched by the long arm of Alzheimer's, it seems. More than twice as many people are now afflicted, from under 2 million back then to more than 5.2 million today.

A more apt name? National Alzheimer's Disease Coping Help Month . Okay, that's a clunky mouthful. But the critical issue today is coping day to day. Yes, research toward a cure is a priority, but frankly, this is extremely unlikely to happen in the lifetime of those who are currently afflicted. Prevention is also critical, if a little tricky because we don't exactly know the cause mechanism for Alzheimer's, and so far the biggest risk factor is one we can't control: age. Again, too late for our elders.

The pressing need is for help in the here and now. Here are three quick things you can do that didn't exist even a year ago (let alone a quarter-century ago):

Check in with your stress. The Alzheimer's Association unveils its new caregiver stress self-evaluation November 1. The idea isn't just to tell you what you already know but to point you to specific resources that can help.

Reach out to just one other person also in your shoes. It's amazing the degree to which just talking about tough matters makes them easier. Beyond that, the group talk with like-minded others, at's Discussion Groups , for example, can bring a fresh eye to specific problems.

Trust your instincts. I learned from raising kids that the gut is usually right. No, parenting your parents or someone else with Alzheimer's isn't exactly like parenting your kids. And yet, speaking as someone who spent the first 15 years of her writing career covering parenting, and who has four children in addition to my caregiving experiences with my own parents, don't be too quick to dismiss the overlap. Children and seniors with Alzheimer's share, for example, the same coping mechanisms, like taking it one day -- or with some folks, one minute -- at a time.

Image by Flickr user JustinsPhotos , used under the Creative Commons attribution license .