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Tips for Handling a Dementia or Alzheimer's Diagnosis

October 18, 2016

In the United States alone, experts estimate that more than 5 million Americans are battling Alzheimer’s disease, and it has quietly become the third leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer. As our population ages, those numbers are expected to rise. Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s and dementia don’t seem to get the same level of national attention as some other major health issues – which can make it more difficult for individuals and families to find the help they need.

What are some of the basic things a family can do once they know their loved one has dementia or Alzheimer’s? Here are a few tips and things to consider after the initial diagnosis.

shutterstock 28928899Remain Calm: The first thing you need to do is not panic, and remember that this diagnosis does not mean life is over, or that quality of life is going to instantly become terrible. Many people live quality, high-functioning, productive lives with dementia. It’s all about the attitude with which you face the disease and your new life. By approaching the situation with a negative outlook, you’re immediately making things harder on yourself.

Educate Yourself: Once you’ve had a chance to take a breath, it’s important to educate yourself. Whether you are the person with the diagnosis or the loved one, learn about the disease: the possible progression, medications, communication techniques, practical safety precautions, etc. Preparing yourself for different scenarios NOW can be vital for maintaining a clear head later on down the line.

Legal/Financial Considerations: Name a power of attorney and talk to a healthcare professional about completing a living will. Organize all your financial accounts. Make sure that a trusted friend or family member has access to your loved ones’ accounts, and that you discuss what role that person will play in your love one’s life, in terms of their finances.

Stack the Bench: Form a support team. Look at the people in your lives who would be willing to help with various tasks. Most people are surprised with how many people are willing to lend a hand if you just ask them. Obviously, family is where most people start, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be someone close to your loved one; it could be a friend of yours who barely even knows the person you’re caring for. Maybe that person can do something like get some groceries for you, or make a few meals. After you know who you can turn to for help, don’t just generically ask for help, ask for specific things.

Seek Professional Help (if needed): Another option, especially if assistance from friends or family isn’t enough, is to look into support from a home care agency or adult day center. Getting professional help doesn’t mean you’ve failed or anything like that – it just means you are human and need some extra assistance. If your loved one’s disease has progressed considerably, seek out a trusted inpatient memory care center or facility to help your loved one flourish.

Also, look for a support group in the area. It’s so important to be around people who are going through similar experiences and can share stories and grow from one another. We host a few caregiver support group meetings at our Concordia at Cabot, Fox Chapel and Sumner (Copley OH) senior care locations, and it’s amazing to see the strides some family caregivers make in those meetings.

If you have a loved one living with Alzheimer’s or another memory-impairing ailment, and you don’t think family caregiving is quite enough, consider enlisting help from the caring staff of Concordia’s memory care or personal care locations, in-home care or adult day services. For years, Concordia has helped to provide safe and secure environments for seniors who struggle with memory loss. Give your loved ones the opportunity to thrive by calling our administrative headquarters at 724-352-1571 or message us through our online contact form.

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