What To Do After An Alzheimer’s Diagnosis
Being diagnosed with any illness is scary no matter what it is, but being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s can be worse because you will lose your memory. It is often shocking to deal with the the inevitable changes that will take place. Being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease can be especially difficult because as the disease progresses, you will no longer be able to recognize family members, feed yourself, walk or even button a button. There is no cure, and every moment of your time becomes precious. How do you prepare yourself as the disease progresses?
Organize your documents and resources. You may want to get a professional geriatric care manager that can help you with the process. Plenty of information is available online to help you prepare, as well as support groups. You can contact your local Alzheimer’s Association for information and brochures. It is also important to find adult day cares or caregivers that can offer help to give your family a break. It is also a good idea to check out memory care facilities in the area. Lastly, gather important paperwork such as birth certificates, health directives, wills, powers of attorney, insurance policies, car titles, home deeds, car titles and pension or 401k information.
For those surrounding a sufferer of Alzheimers’s, collect memories while you can. Ask your loved one about their early years when they got married, special events in their life and their favorite songs or hymns. You will learn some things you did not know and will be able to help remind your family member about special things when they are no longer able to remember. This will help you stay connected as they lose their short-term memory and, eventually, their long-term memory.
Take time to continue enjoying the special things you do every week. Go on walks, eat dinner together, enjoy a special treat or watch a movie. Keep enjoying the special things you do together, even if they might not remember later.
Plan care options for down the road. Prepare the house by improving lighting, add handrails to the bathroom and get rid of slippery rugs that may be a tripping hazard. Move a bedroom to one level so that no one has to use stairs. Also, make sure doors can be locked to prevent wandering. Explore care options and decide who can be there to help from family and friends to neighbors or church members. Realize that at some point you may need to go to a care facility and be able to recognize when that time comes.
Lastly, prepare for grief. This will be a long process and you will feel sadness, anger, loss and frustration. As a caregiver, you will need to take care of yourself with plenty of rest, healthy eating, support from friends and neighbors or even a care group and find ways to give yourself a break occasionally.
About the Author:
Lorenzo Mejia and his wife, Mary Lynn Ryerson, are the owners of Acorn, a caregiver registry located in Chapel Hill.
They founded Acorn based on their experiences caring for his mom, who suffered with Alzheimer’s Disease. In 2013, he became a Qualified Dementia Care Specialist. In 2014, the Alzheimer’s Foundation named him the Dementia Care Professional of the Year in the United States.
Lorenzo is the founder of Dementia Friendly Orange County an effort to make local businesses more accommodating to people with dementia.
Lorenzo speaks often on dementia and the challenges associated with caring for loved ones. He has been interviewed by ABC News and National Public Radio. He is an advisor to Orange County’s OC-CARES Dementia Capable Community Project.
Acorn provides screened and vetted in-home caregivers for clients with dementia, Alzheimer’s, ALS and other similar conditions. Options include 24/7, live-in, weekly, weekend or hourly care. Acorn serves Chapel Hill, Durham, Hillsborough, Pittsboro and surrounding areas in Orange, Chatham, Durham and Wake counties.