GREENSBORO, N.C. — While holidays can be a joyous time for many families, there can be challenges for families affected by Alzheimer's or another form of dementia. According to the Alzheimer's Association, there are 356,000 family members and friends across North Carolina who currently care for a person living with Alzheimer's.
Karen Owens is the Program Manager for the Western Carolina chapter. She said from gifts to gatherings, the holidays can be overwhelming.
“Plan ahead,” Owens said. “How do we maintain traditions while adapting those to meet the needs of the caregiver and the individual living with the disease so that it's less stressful for everybody? Also, we want to think about how we incorporate travel and do we need to have those gatherings in person or would it be better to have a virtual aspect for those gatherings."
Owens said this holiday season may be the first time family members gather with older loved ones since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
Here are a few warning signs and symptoms to look out for:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks
- Confusion with time or place
- Changes in mood or personality
“Alzheimer's disease and other dementias can be very isolating for the individual living with the disease and for caregivers,” Owens said. “I just encourage them to reach out for support. There's lots of support through the Alzheimer's Association, in their community, so just asking for help and reaching out for support I think is very valuable."
The Alzheimer's Association has a 24/7 helpline. It remains a vital resource for individuals and families who have concerns about cognitive changes affecting someone they know.