9 Things To Do ASAP When You Find Out You Have Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s disease can feel like a personal attack on everything that matters to you. Progressive memory loss slowly takes away your independence, your sense of self, and your connection to loved ones. While it’s normal to feel powerless in this situation, making good decisions in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease can improve your comfort, safety, and financial well-being during a difficult life change. Take these steps to plan a future that’s in line with your wishes.
Prepare for ChangeYou may feel reluctant to make major lifestyle changes because some symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are subtle and easy to dismiss at first. But a few moments of forgetfulness can lead to wandering or accidents, especially when you live alone. Start safety-proofing your home to prepare for progressive memory loss, and consider what type of assistance you need going forward. If you have other serious medical conditions, you may decide to get in-home care services, move into a long-term care facility, or relocate to a family member’s home sooner rather than later.
Ask for Help
Isolating yourself is the worst way to cope with Alzheimer’s disease. Everyday obligations such as driving, managing medication, remembering doctor’s appointments, shopping, reading documents, and cooking become challenging over time. Confide in family and friends, and ask them to help with day-to-day tasks that are too hard or dangerous for you to perform alone. You can register for local services, such as senior shuttles and meal deliveries, to fill any gaps in your support system.
Organize Your Legal DocumentsPlan out your future, and take legal steps to protect that vision. Speaking with a lawyer and your family soon after diagnosis ensures you have a voice in the planning process. Update important documents and store them in a safe place, making it easier for your family to carry out your wishes for end-of-life care.
Stick to a RoutineIf you haven’t already, establish a daily routine. Engaging in familiar activities on a regular basis can strengthen your long-term memory and help you stay mentally oriented in the moderate stages of Alzheimer’s. Keep memory cues, such as clocks, calendars, and newspapers, around the house to help you maintain your sense of time and place.
Connect With a Support Group
Build a support system of people you can confide in when you feel lonely, angry, or resentful. Finding out you have Alzheimer’s disease is often similar to grieving. Surrounding yourself with friends and people who are going through similar issues can help you overcome the hurdles of a major life change. Visit a local senior center for relaxing recreation, or find local support groups through organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America or Alzheimer’s Association.
Learn About Medication OptionsDealing with memory loss is even more overwhelming when you don’t understand all the tests and medications your doctor recommends. Discuss the pros and cons of different treatment options and clinical trials, and ask your doctor to explain the symptoms each medication treats. When possible, get support from a trusted family member who can help you make decisions, and keep your doctors up to date on changes in your health and behavior.
Start a JournalPut your feelings about the diagnosis in writing. Starting a journal can help you relieve anxiety and cope with the complicated emotions you’re facing. As the disease progresses, it may also bring you and your family comfort to read thoughts and memories written in your own words.
Boost Your Brain Health
Good diet and exercise habits improve brain health, which can slow the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Try to add more brain-boosting foods such as fish, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to your daily meals, and find hobbies that help you keep your heart, bones, and joints strong. Taking a daily walk with a family member or signing up for exercise classes at a seniors center are smart ways to fit in regular exercise.
Find Out What Your Insurance Covers
Taking care of gaps in your health insurance can help you avoid getting stuck without coverage down the road. Review all your insurance benefits and income sources, including Social Security, to figure out how well you can cover long-term expenses. Many families purchase long-term care insurance to pay for services such as adult daycare or assisted living. However, being diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s may qualify you to get subsidized insurance for a pre-existing condition.
No one is truly ready to learn that they have Alzheimer’s disease, but being informed and proactive is a smart way to manage fear and stress about the future. Confronting the situation allows you to make better plans and spend your remaining time in a safe, supportive environment. Remember, other families are going through the same experiences, so they can offer valuable tips on mentally preparing yourself to cope with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Seek out a community, and take care of yourself.