As our nation’s policymakers including Congressman Morgan Griffith continue their work to support our county’s most vulnerable during this pandemic, I am thankful for groups like the Alzheimer’s Association for their continued support.

I volunteer on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Association as an Ambassador to Congressman Griffith’s office. I’ve seen the tremendous strain the COVID-19 pandemic is causing on nation’s caregivers.

More than 16 million Americans provide unpaid care for loved ones with Alzheimer’s or other dementias, including 150,000 here in Virginia. During this time of national uncertainty and social distancing, there is added stress on caregivers.

The COVID-19 pandemic threatens the health of millions in this country and around the world, but also presents additional challenges for more than five million Americans living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. Caring for a loved one during the COVID-19 pandemic can add stress for dementia caregivers. While, dementia likely does not increase risk for COVID-19, dementia-related behavioral changes, advanced age and common health conditions that often accompany dementia may increase risk. This can cause added stress for caregivers.

Right now, the heroes that work in retirement communities across the nation are doing everything they can to fight COVID-19. It is a very real enemy. We need all the resources we can get our hands on to combat the virus. We will see a flattening of the curve. This global pandemic will pass and we will once again be able to go about our daily lives. Please remember, when COVID-19 is over, those with chronic illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease and those who care for them are still living under the same stressors they were before. Here are some ways to help.

• The Alzheimer’s Association has a free 24/7 Helpline (800.272.3900), providing care consultants for decision-making support, crisis assistance and education on issues families face every day.

• Caregivers can get the support and information they need without leaving home. Visit alz.org for a list of local offices offering online/virtual education programs and support groups.

• To learn more about the resources the Alzheimer’s Association has created for caregivers in this challenging time visit alz.org/covid19.

HEATHER GEARHART

ELLISTON

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