Tens of millions of people are unpaid caregivers to an adult family member, according to a 2015 AARP survey. More than half say they feel overwhelmed by the amount of work it takes to care for a loved one. But there are programs that offer help when the workload is just too much.
“We’ve been together for over 25 years, and it’s just been in the last 10 years or so that the dementia has shown itself,” DeNiece Rhodes said.

When Rhodes found herself playing the role of caregiver to her boyfriend, Jay, it marked the beginning of what has been an evolving journey.

“It’s a very gradual thing. It’s not like all of a sudden one day he just can’t do it,” Rhodes said.

As time went on, Jay’s illness progressed, and the demand for Rhodes’ help increased.

“I was doing everything for him, making sure he had clean clothes on, make sure he put them on correctly, make sure he ate,” Rhodes said

That’s why Rhodes reached out for help, but she isn’t alone in seeking support as a caregiver.

“24/7 is just a little too much,” Betty Buckstead said.

Buckstead also sought assistance after she started caring for her husband who was diagnosed with dementia in 2010.

“I think one of the challenges is having to really put up with the day-by-day things. Just to have this break in the activities, like bringing him here, just makes a great difference,” Buckstead said.

Like Rhodes, Buckstead sought the help of the Day Break program at the Center for Active Generations, a place where caregivers can take their loved ones while they go to work or tend to other business.

Aside from juggling the duties of everyday life with caregiving, asking for help can also be difficult.

“Whoever wants to ask for help? Because we always think we can do it; or we should be able to do it,” South Dakota Director of the CAREgivers program Bobbie Leggett said.

Leggett is the State Director of the CAREgivers program by Active Generations, one of the organizations in a network of programs offering resources to caregivers.

Kathi Herreid with the Alzheimer’s Association shares a similar sentiment.

Herreid communicates with families, helping them navigate the course of caregiving.

“I think one of the biggest challenges caregivers face is the realization that they need help; that they really can’t do it all. And that doesn’t indicate any sign of weakness on the part of the caregiver,” Herreid said.
Even the ones providing the care need help.
“Caregivers who try to do too much are stressed; and their health suffers, too,” Herreid said.

“As a caregiver, you’ve got to take time for yourself because you’re not going to do any good for your loved one if you get sick,” Rhodes said.

Keeping stress at bay is key.

“Right now the only time we reach out for resources is when we’re in complete crisis mode. Somebody’s been diagnosed or hospitalized and that’s when we want to understand or seek out some resources. That’s already a stressful situation. It’s a terrible situation to try and make decisions in. If we could alleviate some of those things, we would know what to do. That would put us more in the moment, when we really need to be there for our loved one at that beginning time,” Leggett said.

And if you take that leap toward help, something valuable could be on the other end.

“Reach out to the community. You’ll find something,” Rhodes said.
Here’s more information on the Alzheimer’s Association and the CAREgivers program.