Valley group offers support to Alzheimer’s caregivers

The Alzheimer’s Association in Phoenix provides a place where people suffering from the disease can come and meet with staff. (Photo by Gilbert Cordova/Cronkite News)

Debbie Cyment has been an Alzheimer’s disease caregiver for about two and a half years.

“I’m the lucky one that gets to work with these people,” she said. “It is so rewarding.”

But it’s not easy. “It is 24/7. It never stops,” Cyment said.

Nearly 60 percent of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers rate the job-related stress as high or very high, and about 40 percent suffer from depression, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

“Who is taking care of the caregiver? Nobody. And that is a huge detriment,” said James Fitzpatrick, director at the Alzheimer’s Association – Desert Southwest Chapter in Phoenix.

The chapter offers programs for both patients and their caregivers. They try to help with caregiver stress.

“Taking a moment to just breathe,” Fitzpatrick said. “We have a phenomenal program called CarePro.”

The program aims to bring families and caregivers together and teach them new skills related to caring for someone with the disease.

David Coon, one of the program’s creators, said they teach relaxation strategies and how to manage behavioral problems.

This is something Cyment can relate to first hand.

“Sometimes, that’s the biggest challenge – to not take it personally when someone is very upset with you, visibly upset, and you’re not able to calm them,” Cyment said. “That’s the biggest stress for me.”

In 2013, Alzheimer’s was the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.