Alzheimer's Foundation of America

Alzheimer's
Foundation of America

9 Tips to Help Caregivers Combat Depression During Mental Health Awareness Month

(May 19, 2022)— Depression is a serious and common challenge facing the more than 16 million Americans caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease. Family caregivers of individuals living with dementia-related illnesses such as Alzheimer’s are at greater risk for depression than caregivers of people with other conditions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As part of Mental Health Awareness Month this May, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) is providing tips to help caregivers combat depression. 

“Alzheimer’s family caregivers frequently put their family member’s needs ahead of their own physical and emotional needs—often to the point where they become overwhelmed. Many experience depression brought on by exhaustion, stress, and feelings of isolation and loss. When these feelings start to occur, they shouldn’t be reluctant to seek help or open up,” said Jennifer Reeder, LCSW, SIFI, AFA’s Director of Educational and Social Services. “Everyone needs to replenish themselves, physically, mentally, and emotionally, and it’s important that caregivers find ways to do that.” 

AFA encourages family caregivers to take the following steps to help combat depression:

Ask family members and friends for support. Many may be eager to help but not know how. Be specific and let people know what you need.

Try relaxation exercises, such as meditation and yoga.

Do physical activities- mind and body are interconnected.

Take time for yourself. Even something simple like going for a walk can be relaxing.

Look into respite care, so you have time both for the things you need to do and that you want to do.  Respite care provides short-term relief for primary caregivers. It can be arranged for just an afternoon or for several days or weeks. Care can be provided at home, in a healthcare facility, or at an adult day center.  To find respite care services in your area, contact AFA’s Helpline at 866-232-8484.

Try journaling, to express all your thoughts, both positive and negative. By writing about your feelings, you may also become more aware of the stress you feel.

Join a caregiver support group. You will be with other people who understand exactly what you are going through and can share emotions and support as well as practical advice and resources, in a safe and understanding environment. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America currently offers free weekly telephone-based caregiver support groups.

Get a good night’s sleep- speak to your doctor if you are struggling with sleep problems.

Pay attention to nutrition. A diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetable, and healthful fats, while low in processed foods, may help with symptoms of depression.

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America has a Helpline, staffed entirely by licensed social workers and available seven days a week, which can provide additional information and support to caregivers, as well as help them find respite care services or caregiving help in their area. Connect by calling 866-232-8484, web chatting by clicking the blue and white chat icon in the lower corner of this page, or sending a text message to 646-586-5283. The web chat and text message features can serve individuals in more than 90 different languages.

Be Proactive & Get a Memory Screening During Older Americans Month

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America Provides Free, Virtual Memory Screenings

(May 4, 2022)—  The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) is encouraging individuals to be proactive about their brain health during National Older Americans Month this May by getting a memory screening. AFA offers free virtual memory screenings every weekday which are available to everyone with no minimum age or insurance prerequisites. Screenings can be scheduled by calling AFA at 866-232-8484 or clicking here. A computer, smart phone, tablet or any other device with a webcam and Internet connection is all that is needed.

“Good cognitive health an essential part of healthy aging. We need to be just as proactive about getting regular checkups for our brains as we do for other parts of our bodies, especially as we age,” said Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., AFA’s President & CEO. “If you haven’t yet gotten your annual memory screening, now is a great time to schedule your appointment for a checkup from the neck up.”  

Memory screenings are simple, quick (10-15 minutes) and noninvasive, and consist of a series of questions, administered by a qualified professional, to gauge memory, language, thinking skills and other intellectual functions. They are similar to other routine health screenings, such as those for blood pressure, cholesterol and skin checks. Results are not a diagnosis, but a memory screening can suggest if someone should see a physician for a full evaluation.

Early detection of memory impairments is extremely important. Many different conditions can cause memory issues, including treatable or curable conditions such as vitamin deficiencies, thyroid conditions, urinary tract infections, stress, anxiety and depression.

Even in the case of a dementia-related illness such as Alzheimer’s, early detection can provide greater opportunity to begin treatments that can help slow the symptoms of the disease, as well as taking part in a clinical trial. In addition, it affords the person the chance to take advantage of community services, such as support groups and therapeutic programming, as well as have a greater say in making legal, financial and health care decisions.

10 Steps for Healthy Aging During National Older Americans Month

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America offers tips to help individuals promote healthy aging

(April 27, 2022)— As part of National Older Americans Month this May, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) is providing 10 steps for healthy aging.

“Each May during National Older Americans Month, we celebrate older adults and honor them for their contributions. Promoting healthy aging helps ensure older adults remain vibrant, integral community members for many years to come,” said Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., AFA’s President & CEO. “Lifestyle choices such as eating a nutritious diet, getting proper sleep, and regularly exercising your body and brain, are all steps individuals can take to promote brain health and wellness and potentially reduce their risk of developing a dementia-related illness.” 

AFA offers the following 10 steps for healthy aging: 

Eat Well – Adopt a low-fat diet high on fruits and veggies, like strawberries, blueberries, and broccoli. Take daily vitamins. Limit intake of red meats, fried and processed foods, salt, and sugar. In general, foods that are “heart healthy” are also “brain healthy.”

Stay Active – Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain and can also help improve mood and overall wellbeing. Brisk walking benefits brain health, while aerobics can boost your heart rate, and weight training builds strength and flexibility.

Learn New Things – Challenge your brain by starting a new hobby like playing tennis, learning to speak a foreign language, trying a cooking class, or something you have not done before. Even something as simple as brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand stimulates the brain by forcing it to think outside of its normal routine.

Get Enough Sleep – Getting a consistent sleep every night is key; at least seven to nine hours is ideal. Having a good sleep environment is also helpful. Insomnia or sleep apnea can have serious physical effects and negatively affect memory and thinking.

Mind Your Meds – Medication can affect everyone differently, especially as you age. When getting a new medication or something you have not taken in a while (whether over the counter or prescription), talk to your doctor or local pharmacist.

Stop Smoking and Limit Alcohol – Smoking can increase the risk of other serious illnesses, while too much alcohol can impair judgment and cause accidents, including falls, broken bones, and car crashes.

Stay Connected – Social interaction and maintaining an active social life are very important for brain health, cognitive stimulation and mood. Invite friends and family over for a meal, board games, or just to hang out. Engaging in your community and participating in group activities is also beneficial.

Know Your Blood Pressure – Blood pressure can impact your cognitive functioning. Visit your physician regularly to check your blood pressure and make sure it is in normal range.

See Your Doctor – Maintain checkups. Health screenings are key to managing chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity, all of which can impact brain health. Speak with your physician about any concerns or questions you have about your health.

Get a Memory Screening – Our brains need regular checkups, just as other parts of our bodies do. Memory screenings are quick, noninvasive exams for our brains. AFA offers free virtual memory screenings every weekday—learn more about getting a free virtual memory screening by clicking here.

Seven Tips for Managing Caregiver Stress

(March 31, 2022)— Stress can damage your health if you do not manage it properly—especially if you are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia-related illness. As part of National Stress Awareness Month this April, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) is providing seven tips to help manage caregiver stress.

“Stress management and self-care are essential for every Alzheimer’s caregiver. Untreated stress increases the risk of caregiver burnout and can cause high blood pressure, heart problems, anxiety, depression, and numerous other health issues,” said Jennifer Reeder, LCSW, AFA’s Director of Educational and Social Services. “Being proactive in dealing with stress has both short-term and long-term benefits for caregivers’ physical, mental, and emotional health, which is why it’s something that they should prioritize.”

AFA suggests the following tips for Alzheimer’s caregivers to prevent and manage their stress:

Flexibility helps. A caregiver’s attitude plays a huge role in stress levels—if the caregiver is calm and relaxed, it helps the individual living with Alzheimer’s to be as well. Conversely, an angry, agitated caregiver increases the chances that the person for whom they are caring will be angry and agitated too. Be adaptable, be positive, and aim for constructive solutions to changing situations.

Deal with what you can control. You cannot control every stress-causing factor, but you can control how you react to them. Focusing on finding solutions to the problem can help reduce the stress it’s causing.  

Mind your health. Inadequate rest, poor diet and lack of exercise can all exacerbate stress (and create other health problems as well). As best you can, prioritize getting sleep, eating right, drinking plenty of water and being active. You cannot provide quality care to a loved one if you don’t take care of yourself.

Clear and refresh your mind.  Exercise, yoga, meditating, listening to music, walking, or even taking a few deep breaths can all help relax the mind and reduce stress.  Find something that works for you and do it regularly!

Take things one day at a time. Resolving everything at once is both impossible and unrealistic—don’t hold yourself to that unreasonable expectation. Prioritize, set practical goals, do your best to achieve them, and take things one day at a time.

Stay in touch.  There are so many ways to stay socially connected with family and friends—visits, FaceTime, phone calls, text messages, and emails, just to name a few. Disconnecting from your support structure and staying bottled-up increases stress. 

Be open with your feelings.  Sometimes just talking about your stress can help relieve it. Whether it’s with someone in your support structure, a professional or even a stranger, don’t be reluctant to open up.  AFA’s Helpline has licensed social workers available for caregivers seven days to provide support or even just listen.

The AFA Helpline is available seven days a week to help provide information and support regarding caregiver stress and other caregiving questions. Connect with a licensed social worker by calling 866-232-8484, web chatting at www.alzfdn.org or sending a text message to 646-586-5283. The web chat and text message features can serve individuals in more than 90 different languages. 

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America’s Helpline Open to Help Families Impacted by Alzheimer’s in the Aftermath of Tornadoes and Severe Storms

(March 24, 2022)—Following tornadoes and severe storms that caused devastation and casualties in several southern states including Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Louisiana, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) is reminding families in those areas affected by Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related illnesses that the AFA Helpline is available to provide assistance, answers, and support. AFA’s Helpline is open seven days a week and staffed entirely by licensed social workers who are specifically trained in dementia care.

Ways to connect with the AFA Helpline include:

  • Phone: 866-232-8484
  • Text message: 646-586-5283
  • Webchat at alzfdn.org; Click on the blue-and-white chat icon on the lower right-hand corner of the page.

(latter two methods are available in 90+ languages)

AFA’s Helpline social workers can address questions such as:

  • How can I keep my loved one calm and feel safe?
  • What steps can I take to deal with the additional stress and anxiety?
  • What can I do to help prevent or reduce agitation?
  • Are there ways to handle the disruptions to my loved one’s daily routine?
  • What steps can I take to reduce the likelihood that my loved one wanders from home, particularly at night?
  • How can I find alternatives if there is a disruption in local home care/respite care services?

Individuals can connect with a licensed social worker seven days a week through the AFA Helpline by calling 866-232-8484, sending a text to 646-586-5283 or web chatting through www.alzfdn.org.

Return to the AFA Media Center.

Federal Budget Invests in Alzheimer’s Research & Support Services

(March 11, 2022) – Congress approved passage of the federal budget for fiscal year (FY) 2022, which is expected to be signed by the President, that includes an additional $289 million designated for Alzheimer’s disease research at the National Institutes for Health (NIH) – bringing federal funding to find an Alzheimer’s cure to a total of $3.4 billion. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) issued the following statement from its President and CEO, Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr.:

“Congress has acted yet again, in a bipartisan manner, to further our national commitment in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.  As part of the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s disease, the federal government set a national goal of finding an Alzheimer’s cure or disease modifying treatment by 2025. With this budget, Congress has made a further down payment to the investment necessary to meet this milestone.

“In addition to increasing federal research dollars, the FY 22 budget also provides for increases to Alzheimer’s disease initiatives at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Alzheimer’s caregiver support programs at the Administration for Community Living (ACL).  The budget also establishes Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), which seeks to revolutionize how to prevent, treat, and even cure a range of diseases including Alzheimer’s disease.

“AFA thanks members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, especially Senators Patty Murray and Roy Blunt as well as Representatives Rosa DeLauro and Tom Cole for their tireless work and advocacy in making these increases happen.  Our other champions include Representatives Waters and Smith, who co-chair the Bipartisan Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease in the House and Senators Markey, Warner, Collins, and Toomey who co-chair the Task Force in the Senate.”

More than 6.2 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease today. As baby boomers age, the incidence is expected to more than double to 14 million by 2060, according to the CDC. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the US, and the only one in the top ten without a cure or disease-modifying treatment.

Return to the AFA Media Center.

Gifts of Giving: The Financial Benefits of Supporting the Fight Against Alzheimer’s Disease in December

Charitable Gifts Can Make a Difference for People with Alzheimer’s and Your Finances Too

(December 8, 2021)— ‘Tis the season of giving, and there are many benefits of making a charitable gift in December. Making a charitable donation to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) before December 31 not only furthers the fight against Alzheimer’s- it can offer financial incentives for donors.

“Charitable contributions are always impactful, but especially so in December,” said Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., AFA’s president and CEO. “Whether it’s done as a ‘holiday gift’ for someone special, to receive a tax benefit, or simply just to do a good deed, there are a number of reasons why making a charitable gift now is even more meaningful. We invite individuals to make an impact by donating through our website, over the phone, or through the mail.”  

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the federal government extended the charitable donation write off included in the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020, for individuals who do not itemize their deductions. Under the law, taxpayers can write off up to $300 ($600 for married couples filing jointly) in certain charitable contributions in 2021 without having to itemize their deductions. The contribution must be in cash (includes check, credit card, or debit card donations) and given to a given to a 501(c)(3) public charity. Since this is a universal “above-the-line” deduction, taxpayers do not have to itemize to claim it— just list it as an adjustment to income on their tax forms and then deduct it from their gross income. Some employers offer to match charitable donations, meaning your gift can be even more impactful.  

Additionally, some individuals may consider donating shares of stock or long-term appreciated securities. If you are holding appreciated securities (stocks, mutual funds, etc.), a large capital gain can potentially turn an asset into a liability when it comes time to sell. Transferring ownership of a security that has appreciated for more than a year to a charity such as AFA may entitle you to a fair market value charitable income tax deduction and an exemption from capital gains tax, further maximizing the impact of your gift.

To obtain a deduction for the current tax year, the stock transfer must be completed by December 31. For electronic transfers, the donation is recorded on the day it is received, so it’s important to start the process as soon as possible.

Donations to AFA can be made online at www.alzfdn.org/donate, over the phone by calling AFA’s development department at (866) 232-8484, or through the mail (with check payable to “Alzheimer’s Foundation of America”) to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, 322 8th Avenue, 16th Floor, New York, NY 10001.

Nonprofit organizations depend on charitable donations to carry out their important work. Donations to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America help fund programs and services for families affected by Alzheimer’s disease, including its National Toll-Free Helpline, National Memory Screening Program, support groups, therapeutic programs, and educational programs, as well as research toward better treatment and a cure. AFA holds Charity Navigator’s highest rating of four stars for seven consecutive years for its commitment to fiscal efficiency, accountability, and transparency.

Virtually everyone has at least one person who is impossible to shop for—you never know what to get them. Donating in their name to a cause they believe in (such as the fight against Alzheimer’s disease), can be a fitting gift for that person. They will be helping people in need and furthering a cause they support—things which will continue to be impactful long after the holiday season is over.

Staying Safe and Joyful: Tips for a Dementia-Friendly Holiday Celebration from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America

(November 16, 2021)— For many, the holiday season is a joyful one spent together with loved ones—including families affected by dementia. Being adaptable and building an inclusive environment are key to creating dementia-friendly holidays and celebrations. With the holiday season right around the corner, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) is providing tips on how families affected by dementia can adapt holiday gatherings to make them safe and dementia-friendly during this festive time.

“The best way to support someone with dementia during the holiday season is to create an inclusive environment to enjoy holidays and celebrations, while understanding and adapting to changes and being aware of the many emotions the holidays can bring,” said Jennifer Reeder, LMSW, AFA’s Director of Educational and Social Services.

Families caring for someone with dementia should consider the following steps:

Adapt past favorite traditions or create new ones. 

Build on old traditions where you can, such as enjoying favorite music or movies. Start new ones around things the persons can, and likes to do, such as touring neighborhood holiday lights, and do it together. Whenever possible, involve the person by asking what traditions are important to them (this will help you prioritize and plan). For example, if the person used to do all the holiday cooking, make it a new tradition to cook together as a family. If they oversaw hanging holiday lights, make it a group effort.

Avoid overdecoration. 

Excess stimuli may be challenging for someone with dementia. Too many flickering lightsor an abundance of decorations can be overstimulating and disorienting. Also, be aware of the person’s sensitivity to factors such as loud noises.

Create a safe and calm space. 

Avoid fragile decorations (which can shatter and create sharp fragments) and ones that could be mistaken for edible treats (which can create a choking hazard or broken teeth). Reduce clutter to avoid potential tripping hazards. Securely hook Christmas trees to the wall to avoid falls and utilize menorahs or kinaras with electric candles to reduce fire hazards.

Holiday Celebrations

Like with traditions, adapting celebrations is key for a dementia-friendly holiday. Try to focus on what they enjoy while keeping in mind their safety and comfort.

Before the celebration

Prepare the person. 

Help build familiarity and comfort by showing them photos of the guests or arrange a phone call/Facetime chat with the visitors beforehand.

Be open with guests. 

Consider sharing beneficial information with guests beforehand, such as ways they can communicate with the person, what they respond well to, and what may upset them—especially visitors who don’t regularly interact with the individual. This will guide them on how they can be helpful and supportive.

During the celebration

Preserve normal routine. 

Changes in daily routine can be challenging for someone living with dementia. If the person usually takes an afternoon walk, build in time for that. If they go to bed early, hold the celebration earlier in the day so that everyone can participate.

Connect with loved ones through technology.

Videoconference technology (i.e., Facetime, Zoom, Skype) can include others who can’t attend in person.

Take a Strengths-Based and Person-Centered Approach. 

Focus on what the person is still able to do and what they choose to do now, rather than dwelling on what they used to do.

The AFA Helpline is available seven days a week to help provide additional information about creating dementia-friendly holidays or any other caregiving questions. Connect with a licensed social worker by calling 866-232-8484, web chatting by clicking the icon in the lower corner of the page, or sending a text message to 646-586-5283. The web chat and text message features can serve individuals in more than 90 different languages. 

Video: Creating Dementia-Friendly Holidays & Celebrations

Return to the AFA Media Center.

High School Seniors Invited to Apply for AFA’s Teen Alzheimer’s Awareness Scholarship

Teens Invited to Describe How Alzheimer’s Has Impacted Their Lives for the Chance to Win a $5,000 Scholarship from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America

(November 1, 2021)— High school seniors impacted by Alzheimer’s disease can win up to $5,000 for college through the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America’s (AFA) Teen Alzheimer’s Awareness Scholarship. Students can enter the contest by visiting www.alzfdn.org/scholarship. The deadline for submissions is March 1, 2022.

“Teens across the country are making an impact because they’ve been impacted by Alzheimer’s— they are caring for loved ones, volunteering, working at care settings, raising awareness and conducting research,” said Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., AFA’s President and CEO. “These college scholarships will help tomorrow’s leaders in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease with their college education. We invite all high school seniors who have been affected by Alzheimer’s to enter.”

College-bound high school seniors are invited to apply for the scholarship by submitting an essay (1,500 words maximum) describing how Alzheimer’s disease has impacted their lives and what they have learned about themselves, their family and/or their community through their experience with Alzheimer’s. Essays can be submitted by visiting www.alzfdn.org/scholarship. Students already attending college are not eligible to participate. 

Awards range from first prize of $5,000, second prize of $3,500, third prize of $2,500, fourth prize of $1,500, and fifth prize of $1,000 to honorable mentions between $750 and $400. Since the program’s inception, more than $350,000 in college scholarships have been awarded.

AFA has been able to provide these scholarship funds with the generous support of charitable donors. Individuals wishing to support this and other programs and services for families affected by Alzheimer’s disease can do so by visiting www.alzfdn.org/donate or calling AFA at 866-232-8484. 

Return to the AFA Media Center.

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America to Host Nationwide Virtual Alzheimer’s Walk

(October 22, 2021)— The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) will be holding a nationwide Virtual Alzheimer’s Walk, which kicks off October 30, and runs throughout November, which is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.  Those wishing to get involved can visit www.afawalk.com to learn more or register.

“This virtual walk allows individuals across the country to come together for a common purpose – to join the fight against Alzheimer’s disease,” said AFA president & CEO Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr.  “The goal is to raise Alzheimer’s awareness and funds to further the fight against Alzheimer’s disease in their communities.  We invite everyone to get involved.  Every step counts!” 

Individuals can walk from wherever they are, at their own pace, for however long they would like, or organize their own teams and encourage others to “walk” with them and raise funds. Participants will be able to track their progress on their page as they walk, and invite others to support them.

Proceeds raised through the virtual walk will go to support AFA’s programs and services to help families impacted by Alzheimer’s, including free daily virtual activity programming, AFA’s Helpline, support groups, educational initiatives and more.  Proceeds will also go towards research for a cure.

Individuals can get involved in the virtual walk by visiting www.afawalk.com or calling AFA at 866-232-8484.

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and the only one in the top ten without a cure or reversible treatment. More than 6.2 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease right now, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that number could grow to 13.8 million by 2060. One in six seniors are living with Alzheimer’s disease and more than 11 million people care for someone living with the disease every day.