About 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, and more than 16 million Americans provide unpaid care -- husbands, wives, daughters and sons, often working around the clock to keep their loved ones safe. Incredibly challenging under the best of times, but some families have been limiting outside help during the pandemic adding to the caregiving stress.
Forty-five-year-old Usha Tewari rarely leaves her apartment. Usha is a government supervisor working from home and the primary caregiver for her mom.
“It's like she becomes a different person,” Usha told Ivanhoe.
Usha watched Mila become withdrawn and agitated due to Alzheimer’s.
Mila suffered two strokes last year.
Doctors recommended a skilled nursing facility.
Usha explained, “Because the COVID numbers were so bad, I said, nope, I'll bring her home. I'll figure it out.”
Usha advocates for Alzheimer’s research on Capitol Hill, but caregiving right now left her feeling unprepared, overwhelmed and alone.
Dama Melendez, program manager for Alzheimer’s Association, Central & North Florida Chapter, works with Alzheimer’s families. She said the first step is safety. Eliminate fall risks like clutter and area rugs. Use security cameras to monitor doors, so loved ones don’t wander out. Some families also remove the knobs from appliances.
“It will prevent somebody from turning on the stove, and forgetting that they did, where you are preventing a fire in the home,” detailed Melendez.
To maintain health, dementia patients may need posted reminders to their wash hands.
For Usha, there’s a silver lining to the hard work of caregiving, spending time with the woman who decades ago cared for her.
“Both of us don't give up and we just, you know, are a team to make the most of it, you know, day to day,” said Usha.
The Alzheimer’s Association has moved to virtual training and information sessions for families online during COVID.
There is also access to caregiving, counseling, and information at www.alz.org.
In addition, they have a 24-hour helpline at 800-272-3900.
Usha Tewari said she also found help through the Rosalynn Carter institute at www.rosalynncarter.org.