You’ve Been Diagnosed With Alzheimer’s…What Now?

You may have suspected that your brain was not working properly.  Now you have confirmed that there is a medical reason why your brain has not been functioning properly and all other possible medical conditions have been eliminated.  In some ways, it may be a relief that you now know you are not crazy.  On the other hand, you may feel angry that this has happened or even be in denial about your condition.  There will be good days and then there will be bad days.  You will remember long term memories but not be able to reconstruct the last 5 minutes.  There are ways to work around it.  You are still who you are at your core.

DepressedSeniorMan

Proactive Tips for helping yourself:

  1. Google ‘alzheimer’s support group’ and find the support groups available in your location so that you can talk with others who are going through this experience.  Sharing your experience can take the pressure off.
  2. Call the Alzheimer’s Association in your area by visiting http://www.alz.org website.  Sign up for their peer to peer phone calls and learn as much as your can about the disease.
  3. Take a family member with you on your doctor visits so that you are sure you have reported everything and that you heard and retained everything the doctor said.
  4. Develop a foolproof method for taking your medications.
  5. Have your doctor try dementia medications to forestall the disease.
  6. Get your legal affairs in order.  Visit an elder estate attorney.
  7. Talk about your finances and how you will pay for your care.  There may be a time when your spouse or family cannot take care of you.  Alzheimer’s can become a 24/7 care proposition so begin visiting facilities to determine which one you would prefer if you can no longer be at home.  Also, remember to plan for how your spouse will maintain their lifestyle.
  8. Read a book or the paper and do crossword puzzles to maintain your brain.
  9. Walk or do light exercise to keep oxygen circulating in the brain.  Take Omega 3 Oil daily.
  10. Have yourself tested for sleep apnea.

Alzheimer’s is a slow progressive disease.  Many people are depressed with their diagnosis and should be treated for it.  Counseling may be helpful in the early stages but later will not help.  You may feel angry but try not to take it out on those around you.  Instead, write about your feelings or talk to someone you trust.  It is a given that we are moving toward end of life from the moment we are born.  Instead, focus on what would make your remaining time with your family and friends the best it can be.  Is there something you always wanted to do but hadn’t completed? What makes your heart sing?

Sometimes people may want to help.  Allow others to take care of you so that your primary caregiver has time off to decompress.  Create a Job Jar and if there are tasks that you can no longer handle on your own, place them in the Job Jar.  Then when someone asks, “How can I help?”, you can have them choose a task from the Job Jar.

If you live alone, you may have already established a relationship with a younger person.  If not, contact a geriatric care manager who will advocate on your behalf. Visit http://www.caremanager.org to find a care manager in your area.   No one should ever go to the hospital without an advocate.  Plan for when you can no longer make decisions on your own.  Have a bank or trust company manage your finances when you are no longer able.  Have everything spelled out in writing in advance.  Pre-planning your funeral arrangements can take a lot of pressure off your family and loved ones.

You may want to make sense of your life and what remains.  Take each day one day at a time.  Life is more appealing if we stay in the present moment and try not to worry too much.

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