FLORHAM PARK, NJ — During National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month (NADAM), signed into proclamation by President Ronald Reagan in 1983, the Alzheimer’s Association aims to recognize the impact of caregiving and honor the more than 15 million Americans caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease.

NADAM provides an opportunity to raise public concern of the disease with a particular focus on caregivers and the Alzheimer’s Association. Since November has also become known as National Family Caregivers Month thanks to President Bill Clinton’s effort in 1997 to honor caregivers during the week of Thanksgiving, the Alzheimer’s Association Greater New Jersey (AAGNJ) chapter is encouraging the community to join in thanking all those who care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias.

"Caregiving is a labor of love, and National Family Caregivers month provides the perfect opportunity for us to thank them out loud for their selfless service,” said Cheryl Ricci-Francione, executive director of AAGNJ.

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According to the “2018 Alzheimer’s Association Facts and Figures” report, more than 16 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. In 2017, caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias provided an estimated 18.4 billion hours of unpaid assistance, a contribution to the nation valued at $232.1 billion.

The study found that 83 percent of the help provided to older adults in the United States comes from family members, friends or other unpaid caregivers.

Also according to the most recent report, caregivers of people with dementia report providing an average of 27 hours more care per month than caregivers of people without dementia, with more than half of them providing upwards of 21 hours of care per week.

Some of these responsibilities include assisting with daily activities, such as bathing and dressing, managing finances, communicating with health care professionals, assisting with emotional or mental health problems as well as behavioral issues and more.

“The care provided to people with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias is wide-ranging, time-intensive and, in many instances, all-encompassing,” said Ricci-Francione. The holidays can be a stressful time for our caregivers, who may feel overwhelmed by added holiday preparation, and attending to visiting family members.  It's important for us to be sensitive to that."

According to AAGNJ, there are many types of caregivers that deserve appreciation in November, including “Sandwich Generation” caregivers, who care for an aging parent as well as children under 18 years old; Millennial caregivers (ages 22-37); long-distance caregivers, who live more than an hour away; male caregivers; and more.

The Alzheimer’s Association provides a wide array of free resources for caregivers, which can be accessed online, in person or over the phone—wherever caregivers are most comfortable accessing information when they need it most. 

A professionally staffed 24/7 Helpline — (800) 272-3900 — offers information and advice to more than 300,000 callers each year and provides translation services in more than 200 languages.

The Alzheimer’s Association caregiving pages contain information and resources to support caregivers across the caregiving continuum. The pages provide caregiver tips and resources for early, mid and late stages of the disease; online education and training programs; and tips to promote caregiver health and reduce caregiver stress.

The Alzheimer’s Association and AARP Community Resource Finder connects caregivers to a variety of local resources by simply entering their zip code. The database includes listings for a wide range of services, including: housing options, adult day care, home care, medical services, legal services and other community resources.

ALZConnected is an online community that allows caregivers and individuals living with the disease to connect with others to share thoughts, questions and ideas with each other 24 hours a day. 

The Alzheimer’s Association is able to offer all of its services free of charge thanks to volunteers who help fundraise for the cause.

In order to continue spreading awareness and raising additional funds, AAGNJ is currently looking for volunteers to help with its upcoming gift-wrapping fundraiser, where volunteers will wrap gifts for shoppers at various locations in exchange for a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association. Volunteer opportunities will be held throughout the holiday season at the Woodland Park Barnes and Noble, Livingston Barnes and Noble and Willowbrook Mall.

Those available to participate in the gift-wrapping fundraisers should contact AAGNJ at (973) 437-3931 ext. 8864 or mecounts@alz.org.

Dates for volunteer opportunities are as follows:

  • Livingston Mall Barnes & Noble:
    • Nov. 23                        8 a.m. - 10 p.m.
    • Nov. 24                        9 a.m. - 10 p.m.
    • Nov. 25                        10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
    • Dec. 10                        9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
    • Dec. 14, 16, and 22     4 p.m. - 10 p.m.
    • Dec. 17, 18, and 19     9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
    • Dec. 21                        4 p.m. - 11 p.m.
  • Woodland Park Mall Barnes & Noble:
    • Nov. 23                        7 a.m. - 10 p.m.
  • Willowbrook Mall (2nd floor, next to Marco Enzo store):
    • Dec. 22                         9 a.m. - 9 p.m.
    • Dec. 23                         9 a.m. - 9 p.m.