Family Caregiver Month: How one Orlando teen creates space for others facing Alzheimer’s

For many teenagers, their days consist of going to school, playing sports and hanging out with their friends. For Sarah Currie, of Orlando, however, teenage life includes a purpose driven calendar. 

Currie lost her grandfather, Donald J. Currie, in May of this year to Alzheimer’s and decided she wanted to honor him through founding a club at her school. 

“My hope for the club was to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s,” said Currie. 

The club, ‘Trinity Prep Saints Against Alzheimer’s’, meets once every two weeks for about forty-five minutes. During the meeting, students who have gone through similar experiences or have an interest in the medical field, discuss what they’ve been through, help raise funds and explore Alzheimer’s and dementia on a deeper level. 

Now, during National Family Caregivers and National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month in November, families like the Currie’s want to encourage others through their caregiving journey. 

Currie says it’s critical that those who join the club know the disease is not a normal part of aging and are connected to the proper resources if their families are taking on being caregivers the way her parents once did. 

“It was just so hard and debilitating. You put your all into caring for them and then you see them decline and turn into something completely different,” said Currie. 

In Florida alone, there are more than 800,000 caregivers for loved ones living with Alzheimer’s, a state with the second highest prevalence of the disease in the nation.

For Currie’s dad, Don, the caregiving experience was not always easy, but left him and his wife Michelle feeling grateful for the time they spent with his dad. 

“It’s impossible to do it alone. It creates a lack of privacy as well,” said Currie. 

He hopes other families can rely on each other throughout the caregiving process, but recognizes having the means for care is not as common as many may think. For those who need additional resources, there are options. 

Among those is home and community-based services waivers (HCBS) offered in some states to help meet the needs of people who prefer to receive long-term care services in their home or community rather than in an institutional setting. Florida offers HCBS Waivers which will cover care for daily activities. To learn more visit ahca.myflorida.com

A care consultation can also be an option to help family members work through tough decisions, anticipate future challenges and develop an effective care plan which can include local resources, support groups and educational programs. The Alzheimer’s Association offers free care consultations through its 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900. Help is available in more than 200 languages.  

In addition, Medicare covers care planning for individuals with cognitive impairment. Many family caregivers overlook or are not aware of this valuable benefit, which reimburses health professionals to provide affected individuals and their caregivers with information about medical and non-medical treatments, clinical trials and support services available in the community.

Currie hopes the club continues past her time at Trinity Prep and that other students feel less alone as a consequence of her parents and her grandfather’s story. 

“I want this to continue after me because of the great outreach we’ve already gotten and to continue raising awareness.” 

For more information on caregiver options, visit alz.org

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