Tips to Help Cope with an Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosis

  • Expert Advice
Published on:
A physician talking to and comforting a senior male during an office visit.

When you or someone you love is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, it can be the most devastating and overwhelming news. But the more you learn about this disease and the resources available, the better you are able to create a plan for the future.

Here are some tips to help you or a loved one deal with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis:

Learn everything you can about Alzheimer’s disease.

You will know what to expect about this disease and won’t expend unnecessary time and energy worrying about things you can’t change. You also can keep up with the latest research related to future prevention and treatment options.

Accept the inevitable, live in the moment, and let go of unrealistic expectations.

Unfortunately, you can’t expect someone who has Alzheimer’s disease to “get better,” and this can be especially hard if you are caring for him or her. However, day-to-day life can improve with good care and coping skills. By reconciling yourself to his or her progressive loss of memory and growing need for help, you will be able to concentrate on finding ways to cope. Don’t expect a person with Alzheimer’s disease to relearn information already lost.

Identify sources of help.

Once you have learned what to expect from the disease, look for sources of help, such as local, state, and federal government services; adult day care; and respite services—assistance with home caregiving—for yourself. Make a list of these resources and keep it in a handy place. (Note: No one service or plan will be appropriate throughout the entire course of the disease.) Find and join a support group, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from your family and friends.

Change how you communicate.

Use validation rather than confrontation when the person you are caring for seems out of touch with reality. When someone with Alzheimer’s disease experiences fixations on false beliefs and confusion, don’t argue or scold.

Create a safe and calming environment

Establish a simple and regular routine for yourself and your loved one (or the person you care for) follow it daily. Locate sources of special products and advice on how to “Alzheimer’s-proof” the home for safety. Learn more about home safety.

Do legal and financial planning as soon as practical

That way, these decisions will be made and won’t add more stress later, when the person with Alzheimer’s may need more attention or when a crisis situation occurs. If your other family members are involved, bring them into these discussions. Be prepared to manage disagreements, which can heighten stress at crucial times in the Alzheimer’s journey.

Accept the fact that your relationship will keep changing over time.

For family members, this means that some long-established roles you have played will also change. You may have to take charge of things that you’re unaccustomed to doing, such as paying bills, balancing the checkbook, shopping, or cooking. It is important to recognize when your loved one, or the patient you care for, is no longer able to do things he or she used to do. It will be up to you to learn new skills or seek assistance.

Understand that sometimes your attitude is the only thing you can change.

Whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed, practice reframing the issues in a more positive way. Learn to forgive everyone—including yourself, the person you care for, other family members, friends, and doctors—for making mistakes and for disappointing you.

Trust your instincts.

Most of the time, they will lead you in the right direction.

This list of tips could go on and on, but hopefully some of these ideas will help you to learn more about how to handle an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis.

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