Dementia helpline reports 10% rise in calls with particular increase around Christmas

Calls to a dementia helpline have risen 10% year on year, with many families seeking help over Christmas, figures show.

Data from the Alzheimer’s Society shows calls have more than doubled in the last decade, with 45,000 calls answered last year alone.

Overall, around 320,000 calls have been answered by staff at the helpline in the last decade.

The most common time for people to seek help is in the period immediately after Christmas.

The charity said the festive season can be particularly challenging for people affected by dementia, as it can lead to a break in familiar routines and the experience can prove overwhelming.

The helpline saw a spike in calls between December 2018 (2,840 calls) and January 2019 (4,040 calls) compared to usual activity.

Also last Christmas, there were around a quarter of a million unique page views of Alzheimer’s Society’s support and advice pages online.

Around 50,000 of these visits were on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

People also seek online help in the early hours, with 1.5 million night visits last year between the hours of midnight and 7am.

Jeremy Hughes (pictured), chief executive of Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Until we find a cure, we want everyone affected by dementia to know that whoever you are and whatever you are going through, you can turn to Alzheimer’s Society for support, help and advice.

“Far too many people affected by dementia are reaching crisis-point, feeling abandoned with nowhere to turn.

“It’s no wonder that we’re seeing upsurges in calls for help to our dementia helpline and visits to our online community and website for instant support, which is simply not available elsewhere.

“To help us cope with this increase in demand, please give whatever you can to Alzheimer’s Society this Christmas, so that we can continue to provide vital support to the 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK and the millions more families and friends who are affected during the festive season and all year-round.”

Tanya Franks, EastEnders actress and Alzheimer’s Society supporter, said the charity was her first port of call when her stepfather Derek was diagnosed with dementia.

“Both the helpline and online forum Talking Point, where people can communicate with others who are going through similar experiences, are lifelines,” she said.

Alistair Burns, the national clinical director for dementia and older people’s mental health, said: “With the NHS diagnosing a record number of dementia cases this year, it’s vital that we all do what we can to reduce our risk of developing dementia by keeping our mind active, and everyone can take simple steps to lower the risk.

“A key priority of the NHS long term plan is helping people live well into old age which is why we are providing care and support to people with dementia, their families and their carers, and the Christmas period is a good time for people to check in with friends, relatives and neighbours who might be at risk of ill health or loneliness.”

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