A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can be stunning. If your parent is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, how can you help them as they strive to make the most of the years ahead?
An Alzheimer’s diagnosis may bring stages of grief and anxiety.
If Mom or Dad tries to hide their Alzheimer’s from family members and friends, it could inevitably lead to tension and stress. They may already have a diagnosis, or at the very least, be suspicious of one.
Some of your parent’s friends may not know how to respond to the news. But if they are open with those friends about their diagnosis — and how they are trying to cope with it — it can help to reduce any confusion and apprehension.
As the Alzheimer’s Association notes to those finding out they have the disease: “You are the only person who can change how you feel about your diagnosis.”
Many people in the early phase of Alzheimer’s learn that they must be proactive — they must build a care team of family, friends, doctors, and caregivers for the present and future. Waiting for the world to help is never the route to take.
To stay engaged with the world, stay active as long as possible, and keep meeting the challenges of daily life, your parent will need a plan. It can be fine-tuned as required.
What tasks does Mom or Dad have the most trouble with? Can someone help them accomplish them, while your parent remains wholly or mostly in charge, or should those tasks be assigned to a loved one or caregiver?
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Can the process of the task be simplified with fewer steps, so that your parent can still keep doing it? Let Mom or Dad know that asking for help is not an admission of weakness.
As an example, if Dad fears losing track of Mom at a mall or sporting event, both of them can wear the same color of shirt, so Dad can easily look at the color of his shirt and locate Mom.
Adjusting to Alzheimer’s disease requires changes, and some spouses, siblings, and children to adapt more quickly than others.
Let Mom or Dad know that they should forthrightly express the degree of understanding and help they need from you. You understand they want to enjoy a full, productive life for as long as they can, and you want to be a great help them.
Families must also address future caregiving and financial aspects of living with Alzheimer’s. Meeting with a financial professional and an eldercare provider can help an individual, couple, or family arrive at a ballpark estimate of extended care costs.
Is it Alzheimer’s? Be sure. No diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is made cavalierly, but sometimes, less-common neurological disorders (such as Lewy Body Dementia, or Pick’s Disease), which may initially present similarly to Alzheimer’s disease.
After the diagnosis is no time for your parent to retreat from life; this is a time for them to live fully, each day.
While they may need to explore adaptations to activities they enjoy, or find new ones altogether, they should continue to pursue their passions, as their minds and bodies permit.