If you’ve just come back from the doctor with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, you may be feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Often, the way to calm those feelings is by taking practical actions which make a situation manageable. Alzheimer’s is a challenging disease and there is no cure at present, but there are a number of steps you can take to alleviate some of the difficulties.
Make another Appointment with Your Doctor
When your doctor first mentions Alzheimer’s, you may go into shock and not register the rest of the information the doctor provides. You are unlikely to ask all the pertinent questions and may leave the office with less clarity than you had when you went in. It’s best to let the diagnosis sink in for a few days and then go back to the doctor with a list of questions (write them up and go through them one by one). Ask about the disease’s progress, treatments, clinical trials, care teams and available resources.
Join a Support Group
An Alzheimer’s diagnosis can bring up many emotions, and a support network is crucial for your emotional health. Both the person living with Alzheimer’s (if it’s in early stages) and his family members can benefit from a safe and supportive environment in which to sort through all the complex feelings that come with the disease. Join a support group in your area to ensure you stay emotionally healthy.
Establish an Exercise and Diet Routine
Keeping physically healthy helps a person with Alzheimer’s cope better and allays confusion and forgetfulness. Many seniors are not particularly active, and if this is the case with your loved one, now is the time to establish an exercise and diet routine which will maintain their physical well-being. See a dietitian for nutritional advice and choose exercise activities which are enjoyable and not too strenuous.
Plan Social Activities
Socializing prevents loneliness and depression and helps maintain skills and independence. Look for social activities which focus on process and enjoyment instead of on results. Check whether your local community has programs specifically for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. If not, look at local listings for senior citizens and plan social activities with relatives, friends and caregivers.
It’s important for a senior with dementia to maintain independence for as long as possible. Changes to the home environment, such as better lighting or removing trip hazards can help. Alarm clocks and calendars can serve as reminders for scheduled appointments and medication prompts. Consult with your local Alzheimer’s association on best ways to maintain as much independence as possible.
Set Up Power of Attorney
There will come a time when the person with dementia can no longer make decisions about his health or his finances. It’s important to plan ahead for that eventuality by setting up Power of Attorney for a trusted relative or friend. This is also the time to document any decisions about care or medical treatment, so they can be referred to later on.
Research Available Resources
Once you’ve taken care of immediate concerns, spend some time researching available resources. Find out what organizations and charities can be helpful, what insurance and social services provide and which private companies can assist you. Research the different types of care for when independent living is no longer possible and options for care which can allow your loved one to stay in his home for longer.