You may have seen it coming – or you may be feeling a little stunned by a recent diagnosis of Alzheimer’s for you or a close loved one. Since symptoms usually develop slowly and then get worse over time, hearing the actual diagnosis may come as a shock. Don’t despair – you’ll find plenty of support and assistance if you are willing to look for help.
Here are some next steps to consider after diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.
- Reach out to family and friends. Alzheimer’s is a disease and it is nothing to be ashamed of. Go ahead, make your close family members and friends aware of the situation, and let them know how you are feeling about it. As with any serious diagnosis, you may be feeling shock, anger, fear – even a sense of denial. Along with guidance from your doctor, connecting with people who care about you will help you sort through some of these feelings and assist you with taking appropriate action.
- Stay informed. There are still some misconceptions about Alzheimer’s, so work closely with your doctor, support organizations and other sources of medical information that can help you understand the symptoms and stages of the disease. This will help you and your family make better decisions about treatments, progression and ongoing care.
- Make plans and look at care options. Will you or your loved one be able to stay at home with a caregiver, or do you see a future need for a quality care facility? Now is the time to think about both care and living arrangements and to explore the types of in-home care and memory care facilities that will work best for you down the road. You may not need additional assistance immediately, but don’t wait until you must make a move.
- Understand your health care benefits. Now is also a good time to make sure you and your family understand your current health care coverage, whether it involves private coverage, Medicare or Medicaid. If you have been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s, you may also be eligible for early or additional Social Security Benefits. Take the time now to organize and understand your medical coverage and make sure your family has access to this information.
Don’t give up! Family encouragement, support groups, medical treatments to alleviate symptoms and making arrangements for ongoing care will all contribute to the safety and comfort of an Alzheimer’s patient. There are many dedicated professionals, volunteers and care facilities that can make dealing with this challenging illness much easier. Don’t neglect other aspects of your health either – good diet, exercise and proper use of medications are just as important after your diagnosis as they were before.
Your life is not over! Many people live successfully with Alzheimer’s, especially when they are willing to engage with others, get assistance and take good care of their overall physical health. You and your family are not alone – take a look at the Alzheimer’s Association or other support groups with local chapters to find inspiration, practical advice and shared experiences.