The Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Taiwan Alzheimer Disease Association are jointly establishing a call center to help families of those with dementia, as use of an existing hotline has increased in recent years.
The call center, which would operate from 9am to 9pm from Monday to Friday, is intended to lessen the burden of families of the 280,000 people nationwide who have Alzheimer’s disease or other conditions that lead to dementia, the ministry said. In recent years, more people are developing early-onset dementia — when the condition arises in those 65 years old and under — and their family members are seeking help in caring for them, it said.
The jointly run call center would be available through the existing dementia hotline (0800-474-580), and would provide additional support for the families of younger dementia sufferers, it said.
The hotline, which has been in service for 10 years, has seen a four-fold increase in callers seeking help with early-onset dementia in comparison with six years ago, when the number of callers began to noticeably increase, association secretary-general Tang Li-yu (湯麗玉) said.
From January to October this year, it received 5,774 calls, 483 of which were for early-onset dementia.
The number of questions per caller was also higher on average for those helping younger family members, she said, adding that they received an average of 3.36 questions per caller about younger people with dementia, compared with 2.1 questions per average from other callers. Those helping younger people with dementia also spent longer on the phone on average, indicating that the issues these families face are more abundant and more complicated, she said.
Some of the problematic behaviors those with dementia exhibit include quick tempers, anxiousness and repetitive behavior, which family members are often unequipped to handle or lack the appropriate knowledge to address, she said.
In about one-third of patients with early-onset dementia, memory loss does not appear as a symptom and the condition may take up to four years to accurately diagnose, National Taiwan University Hospital neurologist Chen Ta-fu (陳達夫) said.
Chen said those who notice middle-aged family members exhibiting significant changes in their sense of direction, use of language, emotional state, decisionmaking ability or personality should encourage them to seek medical consultation, as the changes may be a sign of the development of dementia.