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If you are drowning and someone reaches out to you, do you grasp their hand or reject it?

This scene can illustrate the helpless feeling of a caregiver for someone with dementia. When a confused person wakes in the night and wanders to the door, he may say, "I've got to get out of here. I want to go home."

What should his caregiver do?

She may grab her cellphone and their coats, "Here dear, you'll need your coat. I'll walk with you." Or, she may call a neighbor and watch her 82-year-old husband walk out the door. Or, she may call 911 after he has fallen down the front steps.

The morning comes. Her husband is back in bed, sleeping soundly. While she, at age 79, sits exhausted at the kitchen table with her hands around an empty coffee cup wondering, "How will I keep him safe today?"

What about the man who vows he will care for his wife of 50 years as she loses her memory to dementia and he struggles with chores she used to do? He may find her in the kitchen at 5 a.m. trying to use the stove to heat food in a plastic bowl. He may feel at a loss when she does not recognize him. What can he say to ease her fears?

When an adult daughter who helps her dad with his financial business realizes her dad has paid for five Medicare supplemental policies in the past six months, what can she do to stop people (family or strangers) who take advantage of persons with dementia?

Accepting help means different actions at different times. As a caregiver, you may:

Realize you cannot do it all by yourself.

Talk to someone you trust and who understands your needs.

Call the Alzheimer's Association 24/7 Helpline at 1-800-272-3900.

Get medical advice from a doctor with experience in gerontology or neurology.

Attend a free Alzheimer's Association Care Consultation with a licensed social worker. Ask for information to learn more about the progression of the disease and issues of communication, care, safety, as well as legal and financial concerns.

Ask and let family, friends or neighbors stay with the person with dementia so you can rest, get some relief from the constant watchfulness and do something for yourself or use adult day services for the person with dementia.

Use services of a home health agency to provide companion care or personal care as needed by the person with dementia.

Call the care coordinator of the Area Agency on Aging where you live, or a Senior Services Agency to access in-home services.

Attend a monthly Alzheimer's Association Support Group in your community where caregivers share their stories and how they deal with feelings of anger, sadness, loss and guilt. You can listen to one another and learn.

Now there is help from state funding that the Alzheimer's Association can offer. Apply for respite funds that help with expenses such as respite care, adult day care, medications or personal care and nutritional products.

For more information, call 800-272-3900.

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