SeniorLine concerned about callers showing symptoms of Alzheimers

Posted on 6th May 2021

SeniorLine, Ireland’s national confidential listening service for older people, encourages family members worried about signs of confusion or forgetfulness in an older relative not to ignore such symptoms but to seek advice. 

On May 6 the Alzheimer Society of Ireland hold their national fundraising event  Alzheimer Tea Day to support the Society’s work with Ireland’s half a million families affected by dementia.   
Calls to SeniorLine have doubled since Covid-19, with the service becoming concerned about the number of callers who appear confused, anxious or depressed.  Relatives with older family members living alone or in nursing homes have been seeking advice about the changes they notice.

International research is revealing an increase in symptoms during lockdown for people living with dementia, particularly those living alone.   Changes include increased memory loss, agitation, restlessness, and difficulty in reading or writing.  A survey by the Alzheimer Society of Ireland showed that 75% of sufferers felt lonely, isolated, trapped and confined in Covid, and 61% of carers said they had no time, felt abandoned and under stress.  

SeniorLine volunteers are trained to support every caller, give them time to discuss their concerns and explore helpful options together.   Each volunteer has a Directory of Services of relevant organisations to which callers or family can be referred.

TILDA’s, Ireland’s Longitudinal Study on Ageing, reported earlier this year (‘Altered Lives in a Time of Crisis’) that Covid-19 restrictions have greatly reduced opportunities for social participation and interaction. ‘This poses a risk of increased loneliness among older adults. Loneliness is associated with poorer physical and psychological wellbeing as well as premature mortality’ they said.    
Recent callers to SeniorLine variously reported feeling abandoned, in a dark place, low in confidence to deal with life, paranoid, nervous and unsure.  While SeniorLine offers practical and emotional support to all callers, the service remains concerned about the welfare of many. 

Damian Leneghan is Programme Manager of SeniorLine: ‘Calls are becoming lengthier and more complex, and we encourage people to contact as often as they need.  We are used to supporting older people during crises in their lives.  Since the pandemic, there has been an increase in calls reporting distress.  With one day the same as another, callers are becoming forgetful. The closure of many services and separation from family means that older people are alone and unsupported in unprecedented ways, and we worry that many cases of early onset dementia may be going undiagnosed.  We appeal to family members to keep in touch with their relative and to take action if concerned about their mental health’, he said.

SeniorLine is open every day of the year from 10am to 10pm Freefone 1800 80 45 91 

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