Facing an Alzheimer’s diagnosis and caregiving is scary, but doable

Caring for my mother felt impossible — until I did it

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by Ray Burow |

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“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” — often attributed to Nelson Mandela

Just hearing the words “diagnosed with dementia” is a slap across the face and a dagger through the heart. Still, when my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, caregiving was the furthest thing from my mind. I knew theoretically that our family’s lives would change. However, you don’t really know until you experience it firsthand.

My mind swirled in the beginning, but somehow, caregiving didn’t enter my thoughts until much later, as the disease progressed.

A journey of survival

Initially, my mother’s diagnosis started a survival journey. The goal was that she’d live her best life possible with Alzheimer’s disease. My father was still living, and he and our entire family focused on helping Mom move forward. She was enrolled in a clinical trial, attended regular checkups with her healthcare provider, and continued her routines. As her disease continued to unfold, however, life as we knew it changed.

Thankfully, it unfolded a little bit at a time. Alzheimer’s has stages, thank God. It would overwhelm both the caregiver and the patient if Alzheimer’s were similar to a heart attack, happening all at once. It would cripple us. For many facing a recent diagnosis, the disease is already crippling, even in the early stages, because they don’t know what to expect. There are more questions than answers.

Perhaps you’re the person wondering how to survive this diagnosis, or maybe you’re a loved one doubting your ability to provide care when the time arrives. It’s common to feel this way as fear of the unknown creeps in, but I’m here to tell you that the old adage is true: Things seem impossible until they’re done.

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Challenging, but not impossible

I’m also here to tell you that if I could do it, you can, too. If I found the strength and competence to care for a loved one, so can you.

Additionally, if you’ve recently been diagnosed, you can brave the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease, just as our dear mother did. Our family was not exceptional, but we suited up for the battle and stayed in the fight until it was done. What seemed impossible became possible over time. We learned a lot in the process and made mistakes along the way, but by God’s grace, our family made it through, and our mother was cared for properly up until her fight ended.

Someone once said, “It’s the little things done consistently over time, straight from your heart, that have the greatest impact.” Potential caregivers, it may seem undoable, but if you’re dedicated to the process, you’ll make a significant impact by caring for your loved one, whether they’re at home or you’re overseeing their care at a nursing facility.

It is daunting. It is difficult. It is doable.

The best way to make a difference

Take baby steps; doing little things consistently will make a difference. Those little things include learning all you can about the disease and the resources available. Another step is simply following the healthcare provider’s instructions. Of course, finding the right physician who specializes in the disease should be the absolute first step. Your primary care provider may not be that person.

Also, being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or facing caregiving is a lot to take in. Talk with someone: a pastor, friend, counselor, etc. You’ll feel better and will simultaneously gain perspective. Extra points for talking with someone who’s experienced caregiving and can provide support for real-life experiences.

One little step for the person who’s diagnosed is to begin to release control and accept assistance from a caregiver who values you. Actually, that’s not such a tiny step. It’s huge and largely difficult, but it’s in your best interest. A loving caregiver will always have your best interest at heart.

Caregivers, please don’t take that for granted. Releasing control is necessary, but it’s not an easy step for your loved one. Again, it always seems impossible until it’s done.

Fearing the unknown

The disease will progress, but medical options are available today that weren’t available to my mother. But even back then, she was enrolled in a clinical trial that assisted in slowing progression, which added to her quality of life. Today, because of scientific and medical advances, people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease have an increased chance of treatments, making a significant difference.

The unknown can strike fear into all of us, but we can have a more significant impact when we care straight from the heart and consistently choose to do little things that matter.

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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.


D Mary Jo Henderson avatar

D Mary Jo Henderson

I appreciate any information or ideas that might help me survive. Thank you. Dr. Mary Jo Henderson

Tom Mcardle avatar

Tom Mcardle

Thanks for the offer to help.


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