In most depictions of the media, Alzheimer’s is depicted as a fast-paced tornado. It is shown to be a disease that sweeps a person up within months. But as scientists still have much to discover about the disease and its variability from person to person, it’s important to learn how to approach this diagnosis and have a support network with your physician and loved ones.
Following a diagnosis, maintaining one’s day-to-day life, focusing on their health, and making adjustments become the main priorities for a person. This prioritization of routine is essential because it’s been found that “up to 40 percent of people with Alzheimer’s disease suffer from significant depression, and research by Rabins and colleagues underscores the importance of evaluating and offering treatment to someone who appears sad, apathetic, and altogether disinterested in life” (Graham, 2017). The loss of routine and improper follow-up on checking for depression and anxiety are big concerns with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. Signs of depression may prove more difficult to spot, especially as cognitive functions decline. Indications for depression may be different as it may be “less severe, it may not last as long and symptoms may come and go” (Alzheimer’s Association, n.d.). Following up with a geriatric psychiatrist or therapist would be advisable while noting any problems such as “social withdrawal, irritability, fatigue, sleep disruption, and more” after a diagnosis (Alzheimer’s Association, n.d.).
Building an effective and nurturing support system needs good communication. Asking for help can be a challenge for anyone and being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s can bring concerns about individuality and independence. Maintaining one’s independence is one of the major concerns for people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. “You may feel that by asking others for help, you will lose your sense of self or become dependent. While it may seem like a sign of weakness at first, asking for help when you need it may help you maintain your independence and remain in control” (Alzheimer’s Association, n.d.). Having an honest talk with a caretaker or family member can make a huge difference, and can help bridge feelings of helplessness.
On that note, communication is the bedrock of maintaining a semblance of normality and keeping life on track. As impairment increases in severity, continuing to communicate effectively may need to change in perception and practice. “You have to understand that when you have dementia you lose a lot of your natural perceptions of what others are doing” (Graham, 2017). So keeping up clear communication can aid in overcoming any uneasiness or misinterpretations. It is also necessary to “respect autonomy and individuality” because Alzheimer’s is a disease that affects lives deeply, but should not reduce or eclipse the person it affects (Graham, 2017).
Strategies for caretakers are also necessary for facilitating the rhythm of daily life. “Setting goals, being flexible, anticipating misinterpretation, and enjoying the present” are just some of the focuses that should be done in keeping life coordinated (UCSF Health, 2020). “Many people with Alzheimer’s disease remain physically fit and retain their ability to be comfortable and involved in social situations quite late in the disease. Therefore, they continue to socialize, travel, be physically active, and participate in activities that are enjoyable and creative. Often, familiar activities will continue to be enjoyable for a person with AD and should be encouraged” (UCSF Health, 2020).
Adjusting and accepting this change in lifestyle can be difficult, but having caretakers and loved ones communicate effectively is critical for staying on track. “Absence of a clear and direct diagnosis means that personal care preferences, pharmacological interventions, and appropriate support mechanisms may be more difficult to put in place” (Beyer, 2019). Therefore, being watchful of one’s health and having the resources to be diagnosed early if needed is vital to being able to organize and prepare for life after a diagnosis.
Graham, Judith. “How To Help Alzheimer’s Patients Enjoy Life, Not Just ‘Fade Away.” Kaiser Health News, 14 Sept. 2017, khn.org/news/how-to-help-alzheimers-patients-enjoy-life-not-just-fade-away/.
“Depression.”9 (n.d.) Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia, www.alz.org/help-support/caregiving/stages-behaviors/depression.
“Tips for Daily Life.” (n.d.) Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia, www.alz.org/help-support/i-have-alz/live-well/tips-for-daily-life.
UCSF Health. “Coping Strategies for Alzheimer’s Disease Caregivers.” Ucsfhealth.org, UCSF Health, 6 Oct. 2020, www.ucsfhealth.org/education/coping-strategies-for-alzheimers-disease-caregivers.
Beyer, Anna Lee. “Here’s Why Denying That Your Loved One Has Dementia Can Be Dangerous.” Healthline, 24 Apr. 2019, www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/dementia-denial-dangerous.