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Holidays Take Some Adjusting for Alzheimer's Patients and Families

(Battlefield, MO) -- After spending more time together during the holiday season, hundreds of families will realize one of their loved ones is showing the symptoms of Alzheimer's.
(Battlefield, MO) -- After spending more time together during the holiday season, hundreds of families will realize one of their loved ones is showing the symptoms of Alzheimer's.

And making Christmas traditions work year after year is a challenge for those families already dealing with the disease.

As Darlene Appelquist and her husband prepare their 2011 Christmas cards, she can't help but think of Christmas in the past.

"He's always been one to take pictures and talk and open gifts."

Jim Appelquist was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease at 56 years old. Since then, Darlene says each Christmas has been a little different.

"He had a tendency to just get a little distracted and he would get up and talk into the kitchen."

The Alzheimer's Association of Southwest Missouri says many families start to see signs of the disease at this time of year. The organization expects about 800-900 calls between January and March. 

"They may notice something is not right, " says Rebecca Argilagos. "They can't follow directions, they may be a little disoriented." 

For those families already dealing with Alzheimer's, adjusting to their loved ones needs is crucial.

"Don't try to make grandma remember everybody's names, simply come up, look her in the eye, and say, 'hey it's Rebecca grandma, it's so good to see you.'"

And keeping tabs on them at all times can be key to their survival.

"If they wander during this especially cold weather right now and are not found within 24 hours, there's about a 50 percent chance they won't be found alive."

While Darlene relies on photo albums to guide her husband down memory lane, she admits the road ahead is one she's still learning to navigate.

"His memory of year ago is still very good, it's the now he has more problems with. We just take every holiday as a separate time to learn."
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