When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, you may have a lot of worries or feelings — and that’s okay! Alzheimer’s is a life-changing diagnosis, both for patients and their families. We have created this blog just for you, and we hope it will help you start navigating those feelings and learn what you can do to support your loved one with understanding their diagnosis.
Recognize that receiving an Alzheimer’s diagnosis can cause a rollercoaster of emotions
You and every member of your family are going through a wide variety of emotions, such as sadness, anger, denial, and fear. Everyone needs to process the diagnosis in their way and at their speed. Give yourself and your loved ones the time and space necessary to work through their emotions. Seek support from family members, friends, or other trusted individuals. If you feel overwhelmed, speak with your doctor or a counselor.
Learn all you can about Alzheimer’s disease
Learning about Alzheimer’s can help you understand what to expect as the disease progresses and what to do next. The Alzheimer’s Association provides a wealth of information for patients, caregivers, and families, such as how professionals diagnose Alzheimer’s and how the disease affects the brain. The memory care professionals at Vista Springs can also help you understand your family member’s diagnosis and care options.
Recognize that Alzheimer’s affects a person’s abilities and behaviors
Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia can cause brain changes that affect how your loved one functions from one day to the next. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, which means these changes will become more profound over time. Learning about Alzheimer’s can help you maintain realistic expectations of your family member’s abilities.
Keep in mind that your loved one will likely realize that they are losing their independence as the disease progresses. Talk with your family member and ask how you can help them maintain their sense of control.
Above all, be tolerant and understanding — although this may not be easy sometimes.
Get help as needed
As you and your family progress through the journey of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, your loved one will likely need an increasing amount of help with personal care, medication management, safety, and routine tasks such as shopping, meal preparation, housekeeping, bill payment, and transportation.
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Assess & address the safety of your Loved One’s home
People with Alzheimer’s disease have unique safety concerns. To prevent stress and potentially dangerous situations, evaluate your loved one’s environment for safety. Start by thinking about your family member’s health and abilities, such as whether they wander at night, if they can safely climb stairs, and if they tend to forget food on the stove.
Address any safety issues in the home. Install grab bars in the bathroom, for example, and lock up potentially hazardous products or electrical appliances. Install monitoring devices in your loved one’s bedroom if they wander at night, and avoid clutter in areas where people walk.
Find out what your family member desires
Making life-ending or life-sustaining decisions without knowing what your loved one wants can be exceptionally difficult during a time that is already stressful. Have a frank discussion with your family member to determine what they want if they become seriously ill and need life-sustaining treatment, such as a feeding tube, intubation, or a blood transfusion.
Ensure that all financial and legal documents are in order
These documents may include:
- A durable power of attorney: This allows the assigned person to make decisions on behalf of the person with Alzheimer’s when they can no longer manage their affairs.
- Advance directive: Also known as health care power of attorney, the advance directive gives the assigned person the ability to make medical decisions when a loved one can no longer make them. Decisions may include choosing doctors, long-term care, and consenting to certain treatments.
- Standard will: Names the executor and beneficiaries of the patient’s estate.
- Living will: This document details what extraordinary life-saving measures your loved one wants.
- Passwords and IDs for online accounts: Make a master list including passwords for banking, email, subscriptions, car payments, life insurance, medical portals, and social media, along with smartphones, computers, and other electronic devices.
Create and stick to a daily routine
Maintaining a daily routine can help people with Alzheimer’s disease get through their day with a greater sense of peace and security, which can help reduce agitation and troublesome behaviors. Place clocks, calendars, and other orienting items around the house.
An Alzheimer’s diagnosis is difficult for the whole family, but know that you’re not alone. There are many resources and support groups online to help you process and understand the journey for your loved one. Our online knowledge center offers more information about Alzheimer’s and the care associated with this disease to get started.