Imagine the outlook for your life changing in minutes. A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can be that stunning. If your parent is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, how can you help them as they strive to make the most of the years ahead?
An Alzheimer’s diagnosis may bring stages of grief, and anxiety – when and how should your Mom or Dad share the diagnosis with loved ones, friends, and colleagues?
Sharing the news is part of coping with the news. If your parent tries to hide their Alzheimer’s from family members, friends, or co-workers, it will inevitably lead to tension and stress. They may already know or sense dementia to begin with.
Some of your Mom or Dad’s friends may not know how to respond to the news. If they are open with those friends about the diagnosis – and how they are trying to cope with it – it can help to reduce any confusion and apprehension. Some of their acquaintances may shy away; their true friends will not.
As the Alzheimer’s Association notes to those finding out they have the disease, “You are the only person who can change how you feel about your diagnosis.” Many people in the early phase of Alzheimer’s learn that they must be proactive – they must build a care team of family, friends, doctors, and caregivers for the present and future, and seek out support groups. Simply waiting for the world to help is never the route to take.1
Your parent(s) will need to come up with a coping strategy. To stay engaged with the world, to stay active as long as possible, and keep meeting the challenges of daily life, your Mom or Dad will need a plan. It can be fine-tuned as needed.
The Alzheimer’s Association identifies three key steps of all such coping strategies: identify, prioritize, and strategize.2
What tasks do Mom or Dad have the most trouble with? Can someone help them accomplish them while they remain wholly or mostly in charge, or should those tasks be assigned to a loved one or caregiver? Can the process of the task be simplified with fewer steps, so that Mom or Dad can still keep doing it? There may be multiple ways to solve most of these issues. Let your parent know that asking for help is not an admission of weakness.
As an example, if Dad fears losing track of Mom at a mall or sporting event, for example, both of them can wear the same color of shirt so that Dad can easily look at the color of his shirt and then locate Mom. If Mom has trouble writing checks, someone else can write out the amount, party payable, and account number and Mom can sign them.
Alzheimer’s affects not only an individual, but an entire family. It is an adjustment, and some spouses, siblings, and children adjust more quickly than others. Let Mom or Dad know that they should forthrightly express the degree of understanding and help they need from you. You understand they want to enjoy a full, rich life for as long as they can, and you want to be a good – no, great – son or daughter and help them as much as you can.
Families must also address future caregiving and financial aspects of living with Alzheimer’s. Meeting with a financial professional and/or an eldercare provider can help an individual, couple or family arrive at a ballpark estimate of long term care costs. Perhaps the place where your parent lives can be modified to permit “aging in place” for a very long time with the help of caregivers.
Where can families find help? The Alzheimer’s Association maintains a website, communityresourcefinder.org, where you can find local programs, resources, and service providers responding to the needs and wants of those with the disease.
Make sure to get a second (or third) opinion. Is it actually Alzheimer’s? Be sure. No diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is made cavalierly, but sometimes less common neurological disorders (such as Lewy body dementia, Pick’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and frontotemporal dementia) are initially characterized as Alzheimer’s disease. Under such circumstances, years may pass with both the patient and caregivers believing the patient has Alzheimer’s when that is not the case. A particular medication may be prescribed to delay the progression of Alzheimer’s when another medication may actually be more appropriate.
Invest in your Mom or Dad’s joy. This is no time for your Mom or Dad to retreat from life; this is a time for them to live fully, each and every day. While your parent may have to adapt the activities that he or she loves or find new ones, they should continue to pursue their passions as their minds and bodies permit. In time, they will simply live in the moment; resolve to share as many precious moments as you can with them, today and tomorrow.
This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.
1 – alz.org/i-have-alz/just-diagnosed.asp [10/19/15]
2 – alz.org/i-have-alz/tips-for-daily-life.asp [10/19/15]