Actor Sean Hayes: My mom suffered from Alzheimer’s. When you’re a caregiver, time counts.

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More than 40 million adults in the United States are unpaid caregivers. They need our help managing the ups and downs of caring for loved ones.

Sooner or later, everyone needs a helping hand — even those who spend their whole lives helping others.

I learned this lesson from my mother, Mary Hayes. She dedicated her life to helping those in need. She set the bar pretty high, raising five kids by herself, but that was really just a warmup for her true calling. In 1983, she helped found the Northern Illinois Food Bank, where she selflessly invested her time and energy for more than 25 years by providing hot meals and kind words for people who needed all the love, support and help they could get.

My mom was constantly giving of herself and her time, and she never liked getting attention or being thought of as needy. In her mind, everyone else’s happiness was far more important than her own, and she would drop everything to be there for anyone or anything.

So when my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, our family knew that we had to do everything we could to help take care of her. But what we didn’t know was just how difficult, frustrating, time-consuming and completely exhausting the act of caregiving could be. Even the doctors were amazed at how challenging my mom’s particular case of Alzheimer’s was. I like to think it was a sign that her classic Irish stubbornness was still working overtime.

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