An Alzheimer’s diagnosis, like the diagnosis of any disease, is an upsetting and stressful occurrence. The news brings a wave of questions: How do I cope? Who do I tell? What steps should I be taking? The more we know and understand about this diagnosis and disease, the better prepared we’ll be for moving forward with our lives. This goes for those around us as well, as loved ones and caregivers play an important support role for individuals experiencing dementia.
First things first, take a deep breath and start with the professionals. Speak with your doctor about all the questions and concerns you have. Ask about treatments, new studies, and how this diagnosis will affect your current lifestyle. Your doctor will be able to calmly give you a picture of what you can expect and where you should be turning for support.
Think about who you’d like to tell about the diagnosis, and choose a trusted loved one to come with you to medical appointments. Ask this person to help you get familiar with local transportation options, and if they are willing to provide you rides when possible, to prepare for a scenario when you are no longer able to drive.
If you are still working, speak with your employer about the company’s sick leave policy and disability benefits. You may be able to make an arrangement for reduced work time or take an early retirement. Consulting with an elder law attorney and a financial advisor is a wise step to take during this stage. They will be able to help you negotiate the best outcome. In addition, look into government benefits like Social Security Disability, Medicare and Medicaid.
Stay active with the hobbies and activities you enjoy and in connection with your social circle. Do your best to remain positive as it will greatly help your outlook!
Cut yourself some slack, and use tools to help yourself through the day. Use notes, calendars and pill boxes to stay on top of appointments and medications, and keep a list of emergency phone numbers next to (and stored within!) your phone. Label drawers and closets around the house and do your best to keep them organized. This will help cut down on confusion. Give an extra set of keys to a trusted family member or neighbor.
Don’t rush yourself—handle one thing at a time. Even with all these measures, it can be difficult to cope with the emotions and feelings that come with memory loss. Speak to a trusted advisor, friend, counselor or clergy person for support and guidance.