Community Magazine Charities - Spring 2017

Phone A Friend

Michael Gilbert 2017-04-27 12:16:59

The Alzheimer’s Association offers a help line for those affected by memory loss As Melissa Tucker put it, there is no magic wand she or any of the employees at the Alzheimer’s Association—Greater Illinois Chapter can wave to cure dementia. “Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of death of any disease in which there is not a cure,” says Tucker, who serves as director of the helpline and support services of the Chicago-based Alzheimer’s Association. “We believe that what’s heart healthy is also brain healthy, so eating right and exercising can possibly slow down the onset of dementia, but there is no cure as of now.” There is, however, a 24/7 Alzheimer’s helpline Tucker oversees that provides assistance and information to anyone in need. The helpline has been in operation since the association opened in 1980 at 8430 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., and fields around 450 calls per month, Tucker says. Among those who phone the toll-free line are caretakers, health care professionals and those suffering from memory loss. Members of the general public have also been known to call the line at (800) 272-3900 with questions about Alzheimer’s, according to Steve Schapiro, the vice president of corporate engagement for the Alzheimer’s Association. “There are approximately 220,000 people with dementia living in Illinois right now and around 600,000 caregivers,” Schapiro says. “That’s more than three quarters of a million people impacted by this illness, and that number is only projected to grow.” Studies project an additional 40,000 people will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s by 2025. “As people are now living longer, they are becoming more susceptible to Alzheimer’s,” Tucker says. “There is treatment for a condition like heart disease but there is nothing to reverse memory loss.” Tucker says one of the main benefits of having the helpline is that it provides a confidential avenue for caretakers, as well as those experiencing memory loss. The line is staffed by certified care consultants who can refer callers to medical specialists. Help line staffers do not provide medical advice. “Caring for a person with dementia can be so incredibly difficult,” Tucker says. “It’s so stressful that it literally kills people, but we understand what they are going through. There is nothing they can tell us that we haven’t heard. We can explain to them that what they are experiencing — something like the person remembering one thing one day and then forgetting it the next — is completely normal with this disease.” The helpline offers assistance in 140 languages, and Tucker says callers receive immediate help. If all staff members from the Greater Illinois Chapter are unavailable, the call will be rerouted to the Alzheimer’s Association’s national headquarters, which is also located in Chicago. “There will always be a person available to answer your call,” she says. “You will never have to wait.” Tucker says a caller can expect to receive guidance and education, as well as resources available to those suffering from dementia. She notes the Alzheimer’s Association makes referrals to adult day care, which provides people with dementia the opportunity to be social and participate in activities in a safe environment, while giving their caretaker a much-needed break.

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