The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that nearly 5.8 million people in the United States have the condition. Most people who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease are 65 or older, but the disease is found across all age groups, including 200,000 with an early-onset diagnosis.
The adage that “there’s safety in numbers” doesn’t apply to Alzheimer’s dementia. No one finds comfort in hearing that a family member, friend, or co-worker has received a diagnosis of this mind-altering and life-changing disease. It is a miserable invitation into a fraternity to which no one wishes to belong. However, protesting the diagnosis and pretending that it’s a bad dream is a grave mistake with devastating results.
Ignoring a dementia diagnosis only adds fuel to an explosive disease that claims everything in its path. The only way to gain a modicum of control is to face it head-on.
My caregiver experience has helped me to understand that at times, it may be too much to expect that the person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease will step up to the challenge. In my mother’s case, it was a difficult diagnosis and it was easier for her to cope by denying that she had the condition. The best-case scenario for some caregivers, as with my mother, is that their loved one helps them to face the diagnosis. Following through on the diagnosis must be a priority, but moving forward can be crippling, as the future and what seems to loom on the horizon rushes toward the person diagnosed. A family member or friend can help their loved one to face the disease. I advise baby steps.
Encourage your loved one to refrain from obsessing over the big picture. Following are some suggestions I hope will help:
- Avoid focusing on “what ifs” and questions that cannot be answered in the here and now.
- Focus on the immediate while staying put in the present. What can you do today to improve your outlook and move toward acceptance?
- Find a physician who specializes in Alzheimer’s disease. He or she will have relevant information about how to slow progression. If not, then keep searching for a doctor who does.
- Ask your dementia specialist for a referral to a memory clinic. At the clinic, your loved one will be monitored closely, and practices that are specific to them will be included in treatment. They may even be eligible for clinical trials of cutting-edge medications.
- Denial isn’t allowed. Share the diagnosis with trusted friends and family members who have your best interests at heart.
- Find resources for Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers. Ask your healthcare professional for a list of available supports in your area.
- Speak with your personal attorney regarding a will and consider appointing someone you trust as your power of attorney.
An Alzheimer’s diagnosis is devastating — there’s no getting around that. However, like everything else, approaching it is easier when a friend or loved one is there to offer support.
Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s Disease.
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