Coping with the Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or Dementia
You’ve probably had your suspicions that your loved one’s memory loss or personality changes were an indicator of something more serious. And after visiting their doctor, you’ve received the diagnosis that your loved one has Alzheimer’s or dementia, and have been coping with it as much as possible.
This diagnosis can be a life-altering circumstance. Planning care as early as possible is essential.
Everyone deals with the diagnosis differently, but we’ve offered suggestions to help you and your loved one adapt to an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis.
How to Emotionally Cope With the Diagnosis
Alzheimer’s is a progressive, irreversible disease. Denial, anger, and fear are common emotions experienced when confronted with a tough diagnosis such as Alzheimer’s disease.
With the proper plan in place though, it is possible to slow its progress, allowing your loved one more comfort and more time.
Tips to Accept the Diagnosis
Caretakers and their loved ones will both have their own reaction to the diagnosis. Some people will experience denial, not wanting to believe they have the disease, especially if their symptoms are only mild.
Accepting the diagnosis often takes time. But the sooner you and your loved one can come to terms with it, the sooner you will feel empowered to manage it.
Here are some tips to help you and your loved one cope with the recent diagnosis:
- Allow time to grieve. This is a natural, healthy process needed for family members coping with a dementia diagnosis.
- Encourage your loved one to speak with a counselor or close friend for additional emotional support.
- Be there for your loved one as they share the diagnosis with their friends and family. This is often one of the hardest steps for those recently diagnosed, as they may feel a social stigma because of their diagnosis. Be there for them when they share the news.
- Join an early-stage support group for Alzheimer’s. Being surrounded by a trained counselor and others experiencing similar situations can make your loved one feel more understood and less alone.
Ways to Plan Ahead
Aside from coping emotionally with this new dementia diagnosis, people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia will need to set up a plan to address the following changes in their mental and physical abilities. Coming up with a plan early can maximize the quality of life for your loved one and help you both maintain a sense of control.
Learn More About Alzheimer’s or Other Forms of Dementia
Educate yourself and your loved one on what to expect with the disease to minimize any speculative worrying. Learning ahead of time about the things you do and don’t have control over will help to direct your energy in a meaningful, useful way.
Schedule Routine Medical Checkups
After the diagnosis, make regular appointments with your loved one’s primary care physician or specialists. Because Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, it’s important to keep close tabs on any recent changes to your loved one’s health.
Find Local Support and Services
Joining an early-stage support group is important after a recent diagnosis. As the disease progresses, your loved one may want to join other support groups depending on their condition. Search Eldercare Locator, a free public health website, to find services and support groups for your loved one.
Alzheimer’s Association also has free resources for finding companion services, personal care services, homemaker services, and skilled care to help your loved one manage their daily activities at home.
Provide Help With Completing Daily Tasks
Performing daily activities will become harder for your loved one suffering from dementia. Routine tasks such as paying the bills, taking medicine, and driving to the store will become harder as the disease progresses.
This could include doing the following to support your loved one:
- Help plan their activities
- Create memory aids for them to remember when to take medication
- Write down their appointments in a calendar
- Consider giving them a digital assistant, such as Amazon Echo or Google Home, so that they can easily listen to music, or ask questions about the weather and other information. These devices can also be set up to make emergency phone calls if needed.
Consider Getting a Driving Evaluation
Dementia can cause people to become lost or confused. Driving with Alzheimer’s or forms of dementia is possible in the early stages, however it’s important to get a proper driving evaluation to gauge your loved one’s ability to drive as time goes on.
Contact the American Occupational Therapy Program to properly evaluate your loved one’s driving capabilities.
Prepare the Home
Alzheimer’s and dementia can make it difficult for your loved one to get around their home and complete daily tasks. It’s important to minimize fall risk and simplify spaces within your loved one’s home. Below are tips on how to improve the safety of your their lying space:
- Remove clutter from common pathways throughout the home
- Add more lights throughout the home, especially in hallways and stairways
- Remove any rugs, or make sure they’re properly secured to the floor
- Add support rails throughout the home
- Get a medical ID bracelet or emergency call necklace for your loved one
If Your Loved One Requires More Care
Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia unfortunately have no cure. However, with the proper planning, compassion, and care, your loved one can retain their quality of life longer.
You want to ensure your loved one has as much independence as possible. This will likely mean spending more time with them or hiring professional help. However, there reaches a point when you are no longer able to provide all of the assistance your loved one requires.
At The Kensington, our loving and supportive staff are available 24/7 to care for your loved one as we do our own. Our Alzheimer’s and dementia care communities are specifically tailored for each resident based on their individual needs.
If you wish to learn more about how The Kensington can help you and your loved one, please reach out to speak with us.