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Care for the caregiver

Liverpool resident Joan Antzak was diagnosed with dementia almost four years ago. Her husband Charlie is her sole caregiver. His main challenge? Time.

"It's 24 hours, seven days a week," he said.

The Alzheimer's Association calls this the 36-hour day.

"Caregivers spend 12 hours caring for themselves and then the same day another 24 hours caring and worrying about the person with the disease," said Jared Paventi, public affairs director at the Syracuse-based Alzheimer's Association.

Fortunately, support is available. Among various community resources is the Kirkpatrick Day Program, located at the association's main campus. The program, which has financial assistance available for those who qualify, is open to anyone with Alzheimer's disease or a related disorder, including Parkinson's disease, stroke-related dementia and Huntington's disease. Families can choose full- or half-day attendance, as well as which days they wish to attend.

"The respite day program is secured," Paventi said. "Because six out of 10 people with Alzheimer's disease will wander, we keep everything locked so that way they're in a secure environment."

Interactive activities such as arts and crafts, exercise and trivia games keep participants busy while family members get a chance to take a break from what has now become their daily routine.

Other services the association provides include information and referral help, caregiver training, family care consultations, support groups and Safe Return -- a nationwide identification program that works with law enforcement to recover people with Alzheimer's disease who wander from home. The program requires the person suffering from dementia to wear a bracelet, and there is an enrollment fee of $45.

"We have scholarship funds for people who are unable to afford it," Paventi said.

Charlie said he got the bracelet immediately after Joan wandered off for the first and only time so far.

"I used to chance it up until the time she got lost," he said, trusting she would stay home. Since then, he will only leave her alone for short periods of time, mostly to go to the grocery store.

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