How to Deal with an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis
Receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or other form of dementia is almost always a devastating event – one that more than 7 million people around the world face every year. Both the patient and their family members are now faced with an uncertain future. Amidst the fears and anxiety, it may be hard to know where to start to plan ahead and come to terms with new realities.
Here are a few things you can do to help guide you through this difficult time.
Learn as much as you can about the disease and what changes you might expect. Knowing what challenges may lie ahead makes it easier to plan for and deal with them. Talk to your doctor about possible treatment options and what your specific prognosis is. Contact your local Alzheimer’s Association chapter and ask them for information and resources for assistance.
Connect with other who are going through similar challenges
There are numerous support groups available for people living with dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association can help you find a group in your area. They also have a 24/7 hotline – 800.272.3900 – staffed by specialists and clinicians who can provide both information and support.
Start or maintain a healthy lifestyle
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but as we discussed in this post, there are several things that may be able to mitigate its symptoms. Physical activity, stimulating the mind by learning a new skill and eating well are just some of the ways you may be able to slow the progression of the disease.
Develop a plan of care
Alzheimer’s, as is the case with virtually all dementias, is a progressive disease, meaning the symptoms will continue to worsen during the life of the disease. This may mean you will need some outside assistance at some point to stay safe and manage certain daily activities. If your spouse is still alive and healthy, it’s likely he/she will become the primary caregiver. But caregiving is a highly demanding role and requires the assistance of more than one person. One option is to hire an in-home caregiver. This allows the person to remain in familiar and comfortable surroundings while receiving the specialized care they need. Another option is a memory care community. Take the time now to investigate senior living communities in the area to discover which ones offer memory care.
Help create your future
As there is no cure for Alzheimer’s or most other types of dementia, there will almost certainly come a time when you will no longer be able to make decisions for yourself. The first step in preparing for a future that includes dementia is to establish some guidelines for care and financial decisions while you can still articulate your wishes. Sit down with your family and decide who should be charged with the ability to make both medical and financial decision on your behalf if and when the time comes when you are no longer able to do so. An Aging Life Care Professional® can help guide the discussion and provide mediation if conflicts arise. They can also recommend an elder law attorney who can help you understand your options and what’s involved, and to complete the formal paperwork that will make it all legal.
A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s doesn’t mean your life is over. Recognize that you can still have a purposeful and meaningful life. Additionally, a positive attitude may help slow progression of the disease. A study at Yale University showed that thinking positively about aging resulted in a 44 percent lower risk of dementia when compared to those who feared or dreaded old age. This was true even in those who have a genetic predisposition for Alzheimer’s. Among participants who carried the ApoE4 gene (the single largest risk factor for Alzheimer’s, besides age) and had a positive attitude, incidence of dementia was 2.7 percent. For ApoE4 carriers with a negative attitude, the incidence over the four years participants were studied was 6.14 percent.