Arctic temperatures threat for Alzheimer's patients

Distress hotline fields thousands of calls

INDIANAPOLIS - The arctic blast is leading to special concerns for patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Local experts say the bitter temperatures could be deadly for those patients who have a tendency to wander from home. Last year, the problem was a reality for hundreds of Hoosier families.

Nercile Anderson moved in with her daughter Zerda Blackmon several years ago after doctors diagnosed her with Alzheimer’s. 

"She can, you know, bathe herself and dress sometimes with a little prompting, and then other days, it's just like who are you," Blackmon said.

It's those days, those bad days as Blackmon calls them, that worry her. Anderson has been known to wander off -- it happened just last summer.

She fears it could happen again in the sub-freezing temperatures where even a few minutes outside could mean real trouble.

Experts with the Alzheimer's Association said 60 percent of Alzheimer’s patients will wander at some point.

A unique program is being offered to help both patients and caregivers. The Safe Return hotline is a number that caregivers can call to register patients.

Blackmon registered with the program. She and her mother are connected at the wrist with bracelets containing specific information.

Officials with the Alzheimer's Association of Greater Indiana Chapter  said their Helpline receives 8,000 calls per year.

"That 800-number then emails everything to that police officer that is involved to kind of help with that search," Denise Saxman with the Alzheimer’s Association said.

Blackmon gives credit to that number, the bracelet and police for bringing her mom home safely.

"There is not enough praise for it. Seriously. As soon as I know that they are contacted I feel so much better," she said.

Call 888-572-8566 to register with the Safe Return program.

Call 800-272-3900 to reach the Helpline  24/7 with questions about Alzheimer's disease.

Follow Chance Walser on Twitter: @chancewalserrtv | Facebook: Chance Walser

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