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Coronavirus Update: Family Members Of Those With Alzheimer's, Dementia Face New Struggles Amid Crisis

WESTBURY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) - Caregivers whose loved ones are living with dementia or Alzheimer's are struggling in new ways during the coronavirus outbreak.

Many now feel trapped in their own homes without any help.

Take 79-year-old Sal Pascarella, who can sing the pop classic song "Volare" in the original Italian lyrics, cannot correctly recall his own age.

"How old am I? Forty. Forty," he said.

Memories of his wedding day to his wife, Palma, have faded. So too have decades of work for British Airways.

"I can't leave him alone because he wanders," Palma told CBS2's Jennifer McLogan.


Normally, Palma would be dropping Sal off at the Long Island Alzheimer's and Dementia Center in Westbury for hours of socialization and classes.

With programs in limbo, executive director Tori Cohen says the challenge now is to help both patients and caregivers who may feel trapped in their homes.

"If there is an emergency, their anxieties are on a completely different level right now, which is so worrisome. They only have us virtually to support them and be able to guide them," Cohen said.

Structure, routine and stability need to be offered in new ways.

"They call me, ask me if I need anything, they drop food off for me - very, very nice," Palma said. "The place is blessed for me."

Sal is now dependent on Palma for everything.

"I feel great," Sal said.

"And your wife is helping?" McLogan asked.

"Yes," Sal said.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ Health Dept. | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211

Meanwhile, Palma says, "I just pray for this to be over soon."

Family members say adding to their fears of catching COVID-19 is the anxiety of wondering who would care for their loved ones living through Alzheimer's and dementia.

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