Alzheimer’s disease is a two-fold heartbreaker for families.

As the disease gradually steals the mental and ultimately physical functions, the Alzheimer’s patient finally – and this is perhaps a blessing under the circumstances – cannot comprehend what’s happened.

On the other side of this distorting mirror often stands the spouse or other family member who becomes the primary caregiver.

The caregiver embarks on the delicate task of helping the loved one adjust to and cope with Alzheimer’s. The caregiver’s challenge, however, includes taking care of himself or herself physically, mentally and emotionally.

Through this process, caregivers become unsung heroes. They show remarkable abilities to grow to the task. While dealing with painful experiences their hearts grow stronger, all while demonstrating their love.

As a caregiver, it can be difficult to be insightful and realistic. The caregiver can be so tired and stressed that it is hard to be realistic.

It is difficult to admit one cannot do everything. But the truth is, those who handle it best are those who reach out for help from friends, family, support organizations and, when they need it, professional caregivers.

While the search for a cure for Alzheimer’s continues, knowledge about the disease increases as does information about the best ways to help, guide and interact with patients and their loved ones.

The Hilton Head Island and Bluffton community is fortunate to have Memory Matters as a local support resource. Their expert staff members are generous, kind and willing to assist families searching for support and information. They can be reached at 843-842-6688 or online at www.memory-matters.org.

Caring for another person, whether due to Alzheimer’s disease or any illness, is an act of love. But it comes with challenges. In an effort to be the best caregiver you can be, please do not hesitate to reach out to others for information, support or encouragement.

Online resources

All kinds of information is available online from good sources about Alzheimer’s and about caregiving. Here are a few outstanding websites:

  • National Institute on Aging’s Senior Health: www.nihseniorhealth.gov
  • The Alzheimer’s Association’s Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiver Center: www.alz.org
  • The National Institute on Aging’s guide for caring for a person with Alzheimer’s: www.nia.nih.gov
  • MedlinePlus, the National Library of Medicine site for patients and their families and friends: www.nlm.nih.gov/ medlineplus
  • The nonprofit Mayo Clinic’s site: www.mayoclinic.org. Type “Alzheimer’s” in the search box to reach more than 1,400 pages on Alzheimer’s topics.

Debbie Morris, MA, EDs, is CEO of Home Helpers Home Care and Home Health and certified by the National Academy of Certified Care Managers. help@homehelperslowcountry.com; www.inhomecarelowcountry.com