Finding help for loved ones with dementia and Alzheimer’s

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- An elderly couple missing since Wednesday is now home and safe with their family.

James and Akiko Kitchen both suffer from dementia, and James also has Alzheimer's.

The disappearance served as an important reminder of just how debilitating those conditions can be and how crucial it is for families to seek help if needed.

A City Watch went out after the Kitchens left their home on Crestridge, drove to a store and never came home.

To their family's relief they made it home safe Thursday afternoon, but with their mental conditions, the situation could have ended much differently.

Neither could remember where they have been.

"It's a blessing that they made it back. Any time when somebody goes off with a situation like that with dementia, you never know how they may turn up," neighbor Kasey Crosby said.

Kim Weddington works with Case Management, a group that, among other things, helps people get resources and connections for family members struggling with mental illnesses like dementia and Alzheimer's.

"People can go to places like Case Management," she said. "They can go to Alliance. They can go to their own private mental health providers through their own insurance companies if they can, or they can seek out local support groups."

It is something she said she is passionate about, due to personal experience.

"I had a very close family member who was going through the beginning stages of Alzheimer's."

Weddington said it can be hard for families who want to allow their loved ones independence, but still want to make sure they're cared for.

But regardless of whether you choose a nursing home, at home medication or another option Weddington said families have to be open with one another.

"One of the things you can do to ease that is to make sure you check on your loved one. Visit them regularly, express your concerns."

"Your parents take care of you when you're young. When they get older, you have to reverse it and take care of them," Crosby added.

Weddington said the most important thing is to ask for help when you need it.

"They're not alone. Everyone goes through these issues, and there's help," Weddington said.

There are actually 387 million people world wide suffering from dementia and 47 million dealing with Alzheimer's.

To get in touch with Case Management for mental health resources, call 821-5600.

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