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When did you become a caregiver? In 1996, when my father was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died in August of that year. In the week between his death and the funeral, my mother's behavior was my first clue that she had some form of dementia. Soon after, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.
Were you ready to take on this role? I'm an only child, so I didn't imagine it to be anyone else's responsibility—and I didn't want it to be.
Where did you find support for yourself? In the beginning, I didn't. But then I started to attend the Alzheimer's Association's seminars, workshops, and support groups. Now, I'm a support group leader myself and a speaker for the Alzheimer's Association focusing on disenfranchised communities: African-American, Latino, Asian, and lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender. People in these communities are less likely to know about services. Often they fear rejection and think they won't be welcomed.
Any words of advice to caregivers out there? Yes, take advantage of the services that the Alzheimer's Association or other patient advocacy groups offer!
To find your local chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, go to alz.org .