After Alzheimer’s Diagnosis: Family Caregivers Planning for the Future

The number of people being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia is growing rapidly.

It is estimated that there is a new diagnosis made every 67 seconds.

The number of those currently diagnosed with dementia in America is 5.2 million, 5 million of those over age 65.

Unfortunately, the rate of diagnosis increases dramatically with age. In fact, over age 65, one in six women will be diagnosed and one in eleven men will be.

What will you do if it happens to your senior loved one?

Steps After the Diagnosis

Receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can be life changing, not just for the senior to whom it is given but for the entire family.

While it’s not welcome news for a loved one to  be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, some family caregivers may feel a sense of relief in knowing their questions and worries about the wellness of their senior are finally named and validated.

One of the scariest things about an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is the fact that at this time there is no treatment and no cure. There is hope for the future with a great amount of research uncovering new information and possibilities all the time.

Here are some things you and your senior will want to do:

  1. Get as much information from your doctor as possible. Find out the stage of the disease and what options might be available, including clinical trials.
  2. Learn as much as you can about what to expect as the disease progresses. Take caregiving classes and learn how to treat someone with dementia. You will be glad you did as the disease progresses and your senior loved one’s needs increase.
  3. Recognize your emotions and your senior loved one’s too. Talk about the situation and get professional help to cope with these emotions so that you can move on to take action as needed to prepare for the future.
  4. Investigate your senior’s finances. Find out what insurance coverage is available, including long term care insurance, which may pay for home care. Apply now for any government insurance or assistance for which they are eligible.
  5. Get legal paperwork executed before your senior’s cognition becomes too impaired to execute their wishes. Complete advance directives, end of life wishes and powers of attorney. Get them to prepare a will. Be sure all members of the family know about these wishes so there will be less disagreement when the time comes.
  6. Discuss how you want to inform others. Gone are the days when the stigma of dementia stopped people from sharing. You will need help from people so let them in on what is happening so they can help you.
  7. Talk with the family about how the diagnosis will affect your roles. Someone will be the caregiver, one might handle the money and another may become the ‘parent’ living with your senior loved one.
  8. Help your senior maintain the highest level of quality of life and independence as long as they can. Help them stay physically active, eat nourishing foods, and stay engaged with family and community as long as they can.
  9. Plan for the time when your senior loved one will not be able to drive.
  10. Realize that you may need help in the home or eventually placement. Talk about this with your senior loved one now. Visit a few facilities, even though it may be awhile until they are needed, so that your senior can tell you their opinion.

Include your senior loved one in any conversations you have. They should be the one to make decisions as long as they can. Ensure they have a voice.

Getting Alzheimer’s was not their fault and it doesn’t change the person they are.

What Care is Needed by Family Caregivers?

Care for those with dementia, most often by family members, has been described as all-encompassing and widely varied. Each person is individual and will require different interventions at different times.

As a family caregiver, these are some of the potential needs that will surface requiring you to have a game plan.

  • Assistance with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, toileting, grooming, transferring, walking, eating and incontinence management
  • Help with household chores such as cleaning, laundry
  • Doing meal preparation including shopping, cooking and planning
  • Providing transportation
  • Arranging medical and other personal appointments
  • Medication administration, purchasing prescriptions from pharmacy and keeping track of medication lists for healthcare professionals
  • Manage other chronic medical conditions
  • Handling behaviors, including agitation, aggression and sundowning
  • Arranging help in the home
  • Pursuing long term care placement if that is needed
  • Maintaining the house and car so your senior loved one will be safe at home and on the road
  • Secure documents, including advance directives, insurance papers, will, bills, taxes and other important papers
  • Facilitating family issues that are sure to arise
  • Giving companionship and love to your senior loved one
  • Keep yourself well mentally and physically; maintain your personal network of supporters; schedule time for yourself utilizing opportunities for respite; seek and attend a support group either in-person or virtually

Facing a diagnosis that has life changing ramifications is one of the hardest, most emotion-filled life events you are likely to experience. We know that firsthand.

Getting all the knowledge you can, creating a concrete plan moving forward to make the future as happy and fulfilled for the entire family is the best medicine.

You will thank your lucky stars when you have the legal paperwork in place and all the finances squared away so that you can devote yourself to loving your senior with dementia.

“To care for those who once cared for us is one of the highest honors.”

― Tia Walker