ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — According to the AARP, nearly one-fifth of Americans are caregivers, having provided care to an adult at some time in the past 12 months. And one-third are caregivers of someone age 65 or older, reports the presence of Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Hugh Wallace is a paraplegic and the primary caregiver for his 83-year-old wife, an Alzheimer’s patient. “It was five years when she was officially diagnosed,” Wallace said. “But, prior to that, you begin to see signs. The trick is—are you aware of what the signs are? Our first sign was when she became confused while driving.”

Hugh has all the challenges that come with being paralyzed from the waist down, and now he’s taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s. “Well, there are certain things that are just no problem. Others it’s a major problem,” he said.

But Hugh quickly found out that he had quite the safety net in place. “Thank goodness I have a support group that can’t be stopped! I live in an independent living facility run by the Colonie senior center” he said. “In this particular building, there are about 100 people. All 100 of them are supportive.”

With family living out of state, Hugh is lucky to have someone close by to take care of the groceries. “Most of my family is in the Midwest, but I have one family member nearby who does all my shopping,” he said with a smile.

For any husbands and wives out there that are seeing the signs of Alzheimer’s in their spouse, or children that are seeing signs in their parents, Hugh advises, “They have to know their environment. What’s available? Is it safe? For example, home. Or, if you have no alternative, where’s the best residential care? There are lots of sources out there. For example, Hospice, who helps my wife out a lot.”

Hugh reminds us that you can’t be afraid to ask for help. The Alzheimer’s Association of Northeastern New York is full of resources, and people willing to help if you find yourself transitioning into a caregiver role.