WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- Family health challenges can can be tough as Karen Huger of the Real Housewives of Potomac knows firsthand. Her mother is living with dementia and her father was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.
"We're a team in my family. My sister, Bridget, is a primary caregiver. My brother Mario and I we chip in, but Bridget, we march to her beat," says Huger.
Huger notes that her strong family bond makes it possible to make sure that her parents are taken care of everyday. It allows her to juggle a lifestyle with business ventures and philanthropy, this includes owning a fragrance line which was a life-long dream of hers.
It also gives Huger a chance to go public, raising awareness about Alzheimer's and dementia.
"I'm gonna give my sister many praises for letting me have my platform, because if Bridget didn't do what she does, I wouldn't be here, because I would be the primary caregiver. So, it's family, it's working together in unison," says Huger.
She also encourages everyone to step outside of the family boundary and look out for the caregivers. The personal health of caregivers can suffer while caring for people living with Alzheimer's due to the daily demands.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, more than 15 million people in the U.S. provide unpaid care to a person with Alzheimer's or dementia. About two-thirds of those caregivers are women.
Huger says it is important to maintain your own personal health when taking care of your loved one with Alzheimer's or dementia, "I pray, I meditate, I workout, it is important that I take of me while I go through this process with my parents."
And experts agree that families working together and caregivers taking care of themselves as well. According to the Alzheimer's Association:
- Trying to do everything by yourself will leave you exhausted.
- Seek support from family, friends, your faith community and the Alzheimer's Association
Take advantage of a toll-free 24/7 helpline for information and support: 800-272-3900.
You can also find comprehensive online resources, information, and tools at alz.org.