CANFIELD, Ohio (WYTV) – In Northeast Ohio, an estimated 60,000 people have some form of Alzheimer’s or dementia.
In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association have had to quickly adapt to all online services.
“This isn’t a disease to do alone, it’s just not. So having the support and the resources is really key for these families and right now, it’s difficult to access that support,” said Karen Elliott, program director for the Greater East Ohio Area Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Elliott said the strict stay-at-home orders are making an already isolating disease even more isolating.
Day programs for seniors are closed and health aids are no longer providing home support.
To help, the Alzheimer’s Association has switched to 24/7 care planning and support, virtual education and support group models via phone or online.
Elliott said she now mainly offers emotional support.
“I think if we can help them get their loved ones engaged in activities, if we can help mitigate some challenging behaviors that might be going on, we’re really going to be putting them in a better position,” Elliott said.
“We do have and have always had a telephone-based, 24/7 support directly to caregivers,” said Cheryl Kanetsky, executive director for the Greater East Ohio Area Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Kanetsky said the need for that hotline (800-272-3900) has only increased with the extra isolation.
Since they can handle the call volume, Kanetsky has been reaching out to local hospitals and other longterm care facilities.
“Letting them know that we can be their Alzheimer’s and dementia care resources. Always, but especially now,” Kanetsky said.
For caregivers whose loved ones live in senior homes, they can no longer visit. Elliott said she talked to a family in that situation and they said they have to make do with conversations over the phone.
Elliott said it’s not an ideal time for patients or caregivers, but the hotline will stay open no matter what.