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Alzheimer's Association warns of 'wandering' adults during holidays

Mark Moran

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(Iowa News Service) The Iowa chapter of the Alzheimer's Association is raising awareness of adults who get lost during the holidays.

The group holds educational seminars online, this month and next, focusing on topics for families struggling with all forms of dementia. The series teaches people how to identify symptoms of dementia by decoding behavioral messages the affected person displays, noticing common behavior triggers, and learning strategies to help intervene in some of the most common behavioral challenges of Alzheimer's disease.

Jessica Duncan, program director for the chapter, said caregivers notice more people with Alzheimer's 'wandering' during the holidays, leaving the house without anyone's knowledge, for example.

"It could be that, or it could be someone that's driving and can't remember how to go to the next stop," Duncan explained. "There are all kinds of different ways that wandering can happen with a dementia loved one, or a memory impairment."

More than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease, including an estimated 66,000 in Iowa.

Duncan noted the workshops are designed to help family members learn specific facts about the disease. It should equip them to sort out the various opinions and hearsay about what happens to people with dementia, and the toll Alzheimer's can take on family members.

"One of the things that people always ask me about are, 'How do I have this conversation with different family dynamics?' We kind of touch on that a bit," Duncan explained. "But fact is going to be the biggest part of what we need to make a diary about, or what we need to make a plan for."

More than 11 million family members and friends serve as caregivers for people with Alzheimer's, including 98,000 caregivers in Iowa.