How to Cope with an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis in Your FamilySeptember 7, 2022
When a loved one receives an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, even if it is half-expected, families often wonder: What comes next?
Alzheimer’s is a disease that affects the entire family – not only the person diagnosed. Connecting early on with community resources and planning for the future is essential to helping you understand and cope with your family’s new reality.
Get connected with resources
The first step for family and friends is to get the help of professionals. Learning as much as possible about this disease will help you know what to expect as symptoms progress. You’ll learn how to cope with current symptoms and behaviors and how to prepare for future ones.
The more you know about the disease’s progression, the better you can help your loved one maintain their independence for as long as possible and always keep their dignity.
Community programs and healthcare services provide support for diagnosed individuals and give much-needed support to caregivers and family members. According to a recent Alzheimer’s Association report, more than 11 million unpaid caregivers, mostly relatives, provided 16 million hours of care to a family member suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s in 2021. That’s a staggering figure that demonstrates how much work is involved in caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s.
Caring for a loved one with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis isn’t only exhausting; it’s also lonely. Often, family members push their needs aside and focus solely on caregiving for their loved ones. That’s why community resources and support groups are essential. These groups meet regularly and help you connect with others who can empathize with your journey.
Plan for the future
Many Alzheimer’s patients receive a diagnosis long before they exhibit the most severe symptoms of the disease.
When family members are diagnosed early, it’s hard to imagine the future. Maybe they’ve become more forgetful, have trouble remembering people’s names, or their mind isn’t as sharp as it once was, yet they still go about their daily lives with very little need for help. Some may even still be in the workforce.
At this stage, you can’t imagine they’ll decline to the point that they’ll need around-the-clock care; however, their disease will eventually reach this point, so you need a plan.
Ask yourself these questions as you make this plan:
- Will you keep your loved one at their home and provide around-the-clock care?
- Is the home safe for your loved one?
- Do you have the resources to provide the necessary care?
After answering these questions, you might realize your initial plan was too ambitious. Many families want their loved ones to stay in a familiar environment like their home, but this isn’t always the safest option. Memory care facilities with staff trained to care for dementia patients are often the better solution. The sooner you make plans for your loved one, the better—and be willing to pivot from your original project. Planning to replan is an excellent attitude to have when accompanying a loved one with dementia.
Expect a range of constantly changing emotions
Family members who have learned of their loved one’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis experience various emotions; you might initially feel sad and scared. There will be times of denial, especially if your loved one exhibits only mild cognitive impairment symptoms initially. Your sadness and denial might turn into frustration and anger when your loved one treats you poorly or doesn’t remember you.
Most Alzheimer’s patients live between three and 11 years from the time of their diagnosis. During this time of providing love and caregiving to your family member, you will ride a roller coaster of emotions—that’s a fact, and all those emotions are normal.
Coping with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis as a family member and potential caregiver is exhausting, stressful, and upsetting, but there are many moments of joy and love. Give yourself time to grieve and ride your emotions. Let them come and go as they will and reserve judgment. Even on the most challenging days, know you’re doing your absolute best for your loved one.
If you’re having trouble managing your grief and other emotions, don’t hesitate to reach out for support. Speak with your doctor to explore treatment options to protect your overall well-being. Use these pieces of advice to help your loved one, yourself and your family since you will all be affected by this disease.
At Stonebridge at Montgomery you’ll find personalized Alzheimer’s and dementia care in a soothing neighborhood setting. Our dedicated team of professionals works closely with each resident, providing the supportive one-on-one care needed to keep them connected to the world around them. Contact us to find out more.