By Lauren Pastrana

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.

There are countless studies on the possible causes of the disease, risk factors and ways to slow the onset. Patients are, and should be, top of mind. But let’s not forget the caregivers.

Each year, 18.4 million hours of care, valued at over $232 billion, are provided by family and other unpaid caregivers. They’re so busy caring for someone else, that they themselves are often forgotten.

So today’s “Lauren’s List” is dedicated to those selfless caregivers, and ways we can help them.

  1. Check-In
    It’s so simple but so easy to forget in this fast-paced world. I know I’m very guilty of forgetting to check in, and I definitely regret it. Send a text or email, but better yet, pick up the phone and call. Better still, go for a visit. Contact with the others can help lift a caregiver’s spirits.
  1. Be Specific
    We often say “If you need anything, call me!” or “I’m here if you need me!” but then, radio silence. We don’t follow up on the offers, and the caregiver may not feel comfortable asking. So, be specific. Say “Hey, I’m going to pick up some lunch, what would you like?” or “I’d like to pass by tomorrow and help you with some errands around the house. I can do your laundry and help tidy up the house if you like.” Be gently persistent, but don’t be pushy.
  1. Tag In
    Sometimes, what caregivers need beyond food or someone else to talk to, is a break! Maybe they want to go to the movies, or out to lunch or to go to their own doctor appointments. If possible, volunteer to spend time with the person with Alzheimer’s and give the caregiver some time alone. Help coordinate their care, so it doesn’t all fall on one person.
  1. Recognize the Signs
    Seventy-four percent of caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias reported that they were “somewhat concerned” to “very concerned” about maintaining their own health since becoming a caregiver. The Mayo Clinic reports caregiver stress can lead to irritability, anger, exhaustion, social withdrawal, anxiety, depression, and other problems. Be sure to keep an eye on the signs the caregiver in your life may need some help.

What do you do to help the caregivers in your life?

Tell me on Facebook or Twitter.

If you have an idea for a future “Lauren’s List”, send it to lpastrana@cbs.com.

Lauren Pastrana

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