BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — With in-person holiday gatherings coming up soon, calls to the Alzheimer's helpline are expected to rise.
"[Families will] speak to their loved ones over the phone and they sound okay, but when they actually get to see them in person, as they will be over the holidays, they realize oh wow, they have a lot more cognitive impairment than maybe they realized," Andrea Koch, the manager of support groups for the Alzheimer's Association of Western New York said.
Koch said people with Alzheimer's could have declined at a quicker rate due to the pandemic.
"One thing we do know about Alzheimer's Disease and other types of dementia is that if you don't use it, you lose it," Koch said.
The Alzheimer's Association of Western New York says there are 10 warning signs of Alzheimer's you should look out for:
The warning signs include the following
- Memory changes that disrupt daily life, such as forgetting important events
- Challenges in planning or solving problems, such as keeping track of monthly bills
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks, such as driving to routine places
- Confusion with time or place, such as the date
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships, such as reading
- New problems with words in speaking or writing, such as inappropriate words
- Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps, such as putting ice cream in the medicine cabinet
- Decreased or poor judgment, such as giving large sums of money to telemarketers
- Withdrawal from work or social activities, such as forgetting how to finish a favorite hobby
- Changes in mood and personality, such as becoming angry or fearful
“Our free helpline is staffed around the clock to ensure that people looking for answers have somewhere to turn,” said WNY Chapter Executive Director Jill Horner, M. Ed.
“If mom seems distracted or unable to follow conversation, or if dad can’t seem to remember where to put dirty dishes, the realization that something is ‘off’ can be quite startling, especially after being apart for an extended period of time,” said Horner.
Those “a-hah” moments usually lead to a realization that a professional assessment should be scheduled, and to a great deal of questions. The Association’s Helpline is an ideal place to find answers and resources for additional assistance.
“Helpline calls often lead to local referrals to our Chapter for additional resources such as education programs and care consultations," Horner said.
The helpline is available 24 hours a day at (800) 272-3900.
Koch said when interacting with this family member at home, be considerate of their feelings.
"We recommend you don't try to argue and reason with a person who has dementia," Koch said, "As the person with the healthy brain, it's our responsibility to adopt to their version of reality instead of bring them back to ours... Just letting them know that they're safe and you love them no matter what is really the best thing you can do."