It's not just your loved one's life that changes with an Alzheimer's disease diagnosis. Your own life is also dramatically altered as you assume the role of caretaker, legal guardian, friend, family, or helper in any capacity. Several important issues should be addressed as soon as possible. You must also learn how to handle the day-to-day challenges of caring for a person with Alzheimer's disease. "Handling" means your own mental health is also at stake, the gamut of emotions run wild, you may have more questions than answers.
I am keenly interested in this subject and have written about it before. Parts of this blog have been taken from a newsletter form the Harvard Medical School. At the end there is a link to look more into the disease with a small book or e-book. I am not making any income from sharing this information.
Both of my parents had senior dementia eventually leading to Alzheimer's and then ultimately, death. Most experts say that if the affected person asks you what's wrong with them, you should be honest. Knowing that the problem is a disease, not "insanity," is often a relief for the person affected. Telling someone who has not asked may be helpful, particularly if the person appears troubled about his or her condition. Generally, it's best for the physician to explain the diagnosis. New information doesn't always "stick," however, so don't be surprised if someone with Alzheimer's disease continues to ask what's wrong. In such cases, you can offer a reassuring but brief explanation.
You may also need to talk to family and friends. People with Alzheimer's disease often look quite healthy in the early stages of disease, and people outside the household may be unaware that anything is wrong. But it's important to tell other family members and friends about the diagnosis as soon as possible for two reasons. First, they need to know that any unusual behavior is caused by disease, not by "craziness" or "meanness," and that they'll need new ways of responding as the person's cognitive abilities decline. Second, you and any other caregivers need emotional support and practical help from others.
For more information on caring for a loved one with AD, read Alzheimer's Disease: A guide to diagnosis, treatment and caregiving from Harvard Medical School.
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