Mon, Jan 27, 2020 - Page 2 News List

Handling dementia on holidays

OUTDOOR TRIPS:The Taiwan Alzheimer’s Disease Association and a doctor at Tzu Chi Hospital in Sindian offer tips for keeping people with dementia safe when in public

By Yang Mien-jieh, Chiu Shu-yu and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

People look at the variety of blessing lanterns hung at the Huan An Temple in Tainan’s Liujia District on Saturday.

Photo: Yang Ching-cheng, Taipei Times

While the Lunar New Year holiday is often a time for family gatherings and outings, it is also a time when people with Alzheimer’s disease can easily get lost when out in public, the Taiwan Alzheimer’s Disease Association said.

People with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia should be accompanied by at least two family members at all times when out in public during the holiday, and it is important to hold their hands, association secretary-general Tang Li-yu (湯麗玉) said.

Family members should take a photograph of a relative with dementia before leaving the house, and a piece of paper with family contact information should be put in the person’s pocket, backpack or purse, Tang said.

GPS tracker bracelets should also be worn to help prevent dementia patients from becoming lost, she said.

The Lunar New Year holiday is a good opportunity for family members to encourage and guide relatives with dementia to share their life experiences, if they are still able to articulate their thoughts and ideas, she said.

Sharing memories would be enjoyable both for the patients and their relatives, she said, adding that grandchildren can be helpful guides, and families should organize activities that the elderly and grandchildren can enjoy together.

However, when visiting extended family members during the holiday, elderly dementia patients should not be asked to “guess who someone is,” she said.

Separately, the Buddhist Tzu Chi Hospital in New Taipei City’s Sindian District (新店) urged families to be aware that a sudden change of diet over the Lunar New Year holiday, as well as constant socializing, could worsen emotional problems, personality changes and hallucinations in elderly people with dementia.

Lee Chia-fu (李嘉富), a physician in the hospital’s department of psychosomatic medicine, said 3 percent of elderly patients in Taiwan, especially those older than 65, have dementia.

For every five years after the age of 65, the risk of developing dementia doubles, Lee said.

Degenerative diseases, strokes, chronic cerebrovascular diseases, nutrition imbalances and infections of the central nervous systems could all cause the development of dementia, Lee said.

Dementia symptoms include the degenerative regression of focus or linquistic capabilities, disorientation of time and space, memory loss and rapid mood swings, he said.

Meeting unfamiliar people or a change in environment could cause elderly dementia patients to experience unease and insecurity, which they might be able to articulate, and worsen their condition, he said.

Family members should be patient with elderly relatives, especially if they are repeatedly performing the same actions, saying the same things or experiencing rapid mood swings, and should try to understand what is needed, he said.

Food made from glutinous rice should be cut into bite-sized pieces to prevent elderly people from choking on the food, while elderly people with dementia should be encouraged to make a favorite dish or dishes that they remember, which could help their condition, Lee said.

When going on a family outing, preparations should be made in the case that elderly dementia patients might need to relieve themselves in a vehicle, he said.

Families should make sure their relative has something to take with them that they are familiar with to increase their sense of security, he said.

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