Receiving news that your parent has Alzheimer’s disease is difficult and life altering to say the least, even if the diagnosis is something you’ve suspected for some time.
During this emotional and uncertain time, it is not uncommon to be unsure how to act when you spend time with your loved one. Fortunately, there are some practical steps you can take to help ease the transition into these uncharted waters.
Give This News a Chance to Sink In
Although it takes time, coming to terms with your parent’s diagnosis is a critical step in the process of moving forward, not just for you, but for them as well. Currently, Alzheimer’s does not have a cure and progresses at varying speeds from patient to patient, so it’s important to acknowledge that the uncertainty associated with this disease’s pace can feel like an emotional roller coaster.
This is especially true if you will be taking on a significant amount of the caregiving responsibilities. While your parent’s health and well-being will understandably be your primary focus during this time, don’t forget your own health and well-being as well.
Alzheimer’s will affect numerous aspects of your life, so it’s critical you understand that it’s OK to experience a wide range of emotions, whether it be fear, grief, denial, disbelief, anger, financial stress or virtually anything else.
Discuss your feelings and the situation as a whole with other family members to help keep the situation rooted in reality and remind you of all those available to you and your parent for support.
Familiarize Yourself with the Disease
Taking some time to research Alzheimer’s, or any other condition you or a loved one develop, can help clarify exactly what you’re facing. Seek out information regarding the stages of Alzheimer’s, treatment methods, available medications, potential issues that may arise for family caregivers and any other issues that may be on your mind.
Reading books written by people whose family members have Alzheimer’s, as well as resources written by individuals with the disease themselves, can give you an inside look at what your parent is experiencing, as well as potential issues that may arise.
While you are seeking alternative treatment options, there are other items for you to consider as well. It’s important to start organizing logistics regarding your loved one’s finances, care needs/schedule, personal and legal records, etc. as soon as you are able. Some things you should start discussing now, in the earlier stages of the disease, include:
Have a frank discussion with them about how much money they have available each month. When assessing possible treatment options, it is important to understand the budget you have available. Also, you will need this information to plan ahead for the care they will eventually need.
Put together a calendar in their home to help you both keep track of upcoming doctor’s appointments, support group meetings, family gatherings, important dates and any other commitments they may have.
Organize their medical records into one document, making sure you include all medicines and supplements they are currently taking.Also, complete a health history record that they can give to each physician or practitioner that treats them, so each medical practitioner has the same and the most up-to-date information possible.
Also, come up with a way to keep track of your loved one’s financial records, as well as other important personal information (like names and contact information for their friends, family members, neighbors, doctors and any other individuals they may need to contact for any reason).
Keep all of this important information in a binder, folder or some other organized, easy-to-access location in his or her home so they can quickly refer to it whenever the need arises.
As long as your parent is still in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, it can be incredibly empowering for them to remain living independently in the comfort of their own home for as long as realistically possible.
The progression of the disease is different for each person, dependent on their body’s physiology and the success rate of different alternative treatments they may use to try and slow the progression of the disease.
That said, until a cure is found for Alzheimer’s, over time their judgment will become increasingly impaired.Therefore, it’s important for you both to acknowledge that they will eventually need more in-depth care, whether it is via an in-home caregiver or by transitioning into an assisted living community that specializes in memory care.
Have this talk with them early on so you can better understand the type of care they’d feel most comfortable with, helping you both feel more prepared and at ease knowing his or her wishes will be adhered to as closely as possible.
Seek Out the Professional Advocacy and Support You Both Deserve
If recently discovering your loved one has Alzheimer’s has you feeling lost, helpless or unsure how to proceed, our team of compassionate, experienced cognitive health specialists at AFFIRMATIVhealth are here to help.
It is important in this process to not forget yourself and the other caregivers in the family if you are sharing this role. It is human nature to sacrifice your own well-being to attend to the needs of another. It will be important for you to remember to make your health a priority also. Your ability to care for another is diminished if you end up run-down yourself.
As you support your family member with making positive life choices to hopefully slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, try to adopt those changes for yourself also. They will be much more willing to make changes and be successful at maintaining them if they feel you value those behaviors also. Teamwork and support are key.
Our goal at AFFIRMATIVhealth is to work with the person experiencing Alzheimer’s, as well as their caregiver to ensure they both have the most up-to-date information on scientifically-researched alternative treatments, self-care, advocacy and support to address Alzheimer’s.
Specifically, our RE:mind program uses the personal information for the at-risk participant, including their personal metabolic health (assessed with a blood test), genetic history (assessed with a saliva sample), cognitive health score (determined with oral and written test), and current health status (determined from your medical records) to develop a personalized protocol for your loved one based on the scientific research behind cognitive health and Alzheimer’s.
Then, when you attend a RE:mind retreat together, you and your loved one will be educated and empowered, all while providing the compassionate support they – and you – deserve, so when you return home you can implement their personalized protocol.
To learn more about our RE:mind retreat program and how it can help your loved one fully understand and take control of their cognitive well-being, contact us online or at 707-800-2302 today.