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Concerns for Alzheimer’s community during pandemic

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ROCKFORD (WREX) - Families that have loved ones diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or a dementia-related illness are facing uncertainty, as restrictions on elderly visits are in place during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Alzheimer's Association figures for 2020, more than 5 million people live with the disease in the United States. It's an older population vulnerable to COVID-19.

Melissa Tucker is the Alzheimer's Association Illinois Chapter's director of family services, and she says families have a new challenge - communicating from afar.

"Can they help that person with dementia be on a phone call or a video conference?"

Melissa Wiebenga works for Senior Housing Management, overseeing facilities in our region. Virtual communication tools are in place, and inside their buildings, they keep working for their patients.

"Just really keeping it normal for them, so it's business as usual so they don't feel the fear."

Tucker says that's to make sure patients don't suffer further behavioral changes.

"Familiarity and routine are very helpful for someone with dementia and that routine is changing. People with dementia will often pick up on the emotions of people around them, so if people around them are anxious or agitated, they might feel that."

That's why experts say active care is crucial, but it puts families outside facilities in a difficult spot.

"We understand the families are the ones having the hardest time with this."

The Alzheimer's Association is making a digital transition, available for you to explore at alz.org.

"We're providing all of our services online, virtually, telephones, we've got early stage support groups now meeting by the phone," Tucker says.

If your elderly relative is in a facility, they're not alone.

"We have 24-hour caregivers and resident assistance in our buildings so they have that personal connection," Wiebenga says.

Ensuring all minds - those of patients and their families - are at ease.

Dan Cohen

Sports Reporter

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