Written by Nina Donald
In its initial stages, the symptoms of Alzheimer’s can often be ambiguous, and could potentially be attributed to other causes. However, if your doctor feels that your set of symptoms accurately reflects those of Alzheimer’s and diagnoses the disease, there are a number of steps you and your loved ones can take to seek the correct support.
Many people who have been diagnosed find it helpful to make a future care plan straight away; this gives them complete autonomy in how they want their care to look in future, should they not be able to make their own decisions at the time. Granting a close family member or trusted friend power of attorney is an important element of the care plan also.
From a psychological viewpoint, arguably the biggest hurdle in receiving a diagnosis is your own acceptance of it. It’s important to talk openly with your loved ones about how you feel, and in time come to accept that things you once did easily will become increasingly difficult, such as maintaining a schedule or managing money. Some people may try to cover up their difficulties to protect themselves and their family from embarrassment. Or, they may be reluctant to ask for help. However, this ultimately exacerbates stress and hinders your wellbeing. Accepting changes in your abilities and adapting new coping skills can help you restore balance to your life and give you a sense of accomplishment in your abilities as you continue to live with the disease.
Creating a routine for yourself in the initial stages will lay the groundwork for a less stressful life moving forward. As spells of confusion or disorientation increase in frequency as the disease progresses, having a pre-established routine can help root you back in your surroundings and prevent distress. It’s also important to adjust expectations of yourself; set realistic goals and focus on what you can do today. Set realistic expectations for yourself and use the skills you have to be successful in dealing with challenging tasks. Some tasks may become too difficult for you to complete even with reminder aids. Reduce stress by asking family or friends for help, if needed.
The most important thing to remember is that you can still live a full and happy life post-diagnosis. There is a range of medication now available which can slow the progression of the disease, as well as the effectiveness of eating well, exercising regularly and doing cognitive exercises. All of these can enhance your quality of life, and open communication with loved ones ensures that you don’t have to go through this new stage of life alone.