As many as 304,000 people in South Carolina are providing care for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia-related illness, according to the SC Alzheimers’ Association.
Thanks to a $40,000 donation from the South Carolina Elks Association, many of those caregivers can get help when they need a break from their responsibilities.
“It’s very important,” Vice President of Programs Sam Wiley said. “It’s going to be able to provide a little assistance for family caregivers to be able to perhaps take a break, maybe take care of their own health needs for a period of time so that they can also get back to continuing to provide long-term care for their loved ones in the home. So this money is tremendous. It’s going to be able to help many, many more families in South Carolina.”
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, about 86,000 people in South Carolina suffer from Alzheimer’s. The Association predicts that number will grow to 120,000 by 2025.
“There’s approximately right now over 300,000 family caregivers for just Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia –family caregivers,” Wiley said. “So we’re talking about a large amount of families. These are not professionals. These are all family members that are doing this, whether it be out of the love of their heart or for whatever reason they’re doing it, but they’re not getting paid. They’re actually informal family caregivers.”
He said many family members do not have an extra network of family or friends to help or other additional support to provide the care.
The Elks raised funds over the last 20 years through their State Major Project to support respite care for families facing Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia. Funds will be distributed by the Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging, which partners with the Alzheimer’s Association to administer the state-funded Alzheimer’s Caregiver Respite Program. The SC Elks Association adopted Alzheimer’s as its State Major Project in 1997.
“It started out as a vision many years ago that the South Carolina Elks Association had,” Wiley said. “And now that vision is going to be put into practice to help so many families.”
“We worked a long time with the Elks, starting several years ago down in Charleston, South Carolina, and it took us a long time to get to the point where we are now that we can start passing out some money in the state of South Carolina for Alzheimer’s respite care,” said Robert Merck with the Elks Association’s Seneca/Foothills Lodge. “It couldn’t be used for anything better. I’ve worked with Alzheimer’s patients. I know what a family goes through. It’s horrible.”
Wiley said help is available for families who need help caring for someone who has Alsheimer’s or dementia. Click here for programs offered by the Alzheimer’s Association. Click here for more information about respite care available in South Carolina.