“I’ll be there on Tuesday at 10.”
Tammy Lacey saw the toll caring for her mother, Peggy, was taking on her father, Walt. “Dad was by himself,” Tammy said. “Mom took care of everything (before her diagnosis). He went from doing nothing to cleaning, cooking and paying the bills.” Peggy, 70, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s five years ago. Her mother, Tammy’s grandmother, also had the disease.
In her mind, Dad had to accept help, Tammy said. But getting there was anything but easy.
Tammy says she had to “force” her father to let him accept her help when caring for Peggy became more than he could handle alone about three years ago. I told him, “We’re a team. We’re in this together.”
Instead of saying to her father, “let me know what I can do,” Tammy said she found she simply had to tell him what she was going to do: “I’ll be there on Tuesday at 10.”
While Walt is Peggy’s primary caregiver, Tammy is part of a group of dementia caregivers called “sandwich generation” caregivers, meaning they not only care for an aging parent, but also care for children under age 18. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that 25 percent of caregivers are in the sandwich generation.
Tammy, 45, says she’s fortunate because she is not working outside the home and her husband supports her time spent helping her parents. They have a child in high school and one in college.
When Peggy’s condition worsened about three years ago, Tammy realized she needed more information about Alzheimer’s and additional guidance on how to support her father. So she turned to the Alzheimer’s Association caregiver support group that meets monthly at the Amherst Public Library.
What she discovered at the support group “changed my life,” Tammy said. Describing the group as a “family” she said the stories shared at the meetings offer hands-on, valuable education.
One of the best nuggets shared by the group: “If you can let the small things go, you can concentrate on the bigger things.”
Today, 16 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. Caregivers are 54 years old on average and one in six caregivers is a millennial. In Ohio more than 600,000 people provide unpaid care for loved ones with Alzheimer’s.
The Alzheimer’s Association Cleveland Area Chapter offers free in-person support groups for caregivers, individuals living with Alzheimer’s and others dealing with the disease. All support groups are facilitated by trained individuals. Specialized groups for early-stage Alzheimer’s, Frontotemporal Degeneration (FTD), and Lewy Body Dementia, are available.
“If I’ve learned anything, it’s that Alzheimer’s and dementia don’t care who you are and what you’ve done with your life. It can still come and get you,” she said.
If you need information or have any question related to Alzheimer’s or dementia any time of the day or night, call the Alzheimer’s Association’s 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900 and speak with a trained professional. Or visit alz.org. We are here to help.
And the Alzheimer’s Association, just like Tammy, “will be there Tuesday at 10.”