Handling The News That Your Parent Has Alzheimer’s
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It is a difficult subject and one that many would just as likely prefer not to think about. However, if you and your parent have gotten the diagnosis that they do, in fact, have Alzheimer’s, it is not something you should be burying your head in the sand about. Rather, the more steps you take to plan ahead, the easier it can be to make decisions that will affect their wellbeing and quality of life for years to come.
Taking the time to process the news
There’s no denying that, for just about anyone, hearing the news that a loved one has Alzheimer’s can be quite a significant shock. It can put the future into a rather stark perspective and you may start to feel emotions that are quite similar to the grief you might feel as if they had passed away. This is only natural, and you shouldn’t feel bad for having strong emotions like that. Take the time to seek comfort from those that you love, and you may even want to consider talking to an online counselor to help you process your own emotions so that you can be better able to help your parent.
Working with the doctors early and often
Your parent’s doctor is likely to have a plan of treatment to help preserve your parent’s quality of life as best as possible for as long as possible. As such, it is important to encourage and support them throughout the early stages following the initial diagnosis. This can include evaluating their memory issues fully to find out the extent of the condition, as well as looking at treatment options such as medication. It’s important to start acting on this as early as possible, as people with Alzheimer’s do not regain the abilities that they lose, abilities that the right treatment could help them secure for longer.
The question of care
It is likely to happen to all of us at some point that we are no longer able to provide ourselves with the care that we need or to live independently. If you have a parent with Alzheimer’s, then that point is likely to come sooner than for most. As such, you need to consider their care options, and who is going to make sure that those vital needs of theirs are met. You may not be able to care for your own senior parents with your schedule and even if you are, you need to seriously consider whether you do, as becoming a full-time care provider can be extremely demanding. Consider all of your options, from care communities to at-home full-time providers, thinking about both what fits your budgets and your needs.
Come to understand the diagnosis
We all have an idea of what Alzheimer’s is, and how it supposedly affects people, their memories, and their personalities over time. However, operating on assumptions isn’t going to be helpful when it comes to assisting your parent who is now living with the condition. While their doctor will be able to give you the details most relevant to them, there is nothing wrong with taking the time to research Alzheimer’s as best as possible, so you can have a better idea of what to expect. This may be able to help you cope emotionally when the time comes to it.
Making their home better suited to their needs
If your loved one is continuing to live at home, then it is important to recognize that how they see their surroundings might begin to change. Familiarity can, in a lot of instances, help. However, there are certain patterns and surfaces that can be confusing and disorienting to people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Making the home better suited to their needs can include things like replacing patterned wallpaper or carpets, using surfaces that are not shiny (as they can be mistaken for wetness), and adding simple signs that explain the functions of things like doors, cupboards, remotes, and the like. There are a lot of little steps you can take to help your loved one operate more independently.
Getting the legal side of things taken care of
Any person living with Alzheimer’s is going to have to come to terms with the fact that they are going to lose their ability to make their own legal decisions and maintain complete independence. As their child, you can help make some of those decisions come when the time comes. However, many would prefer to prepare the legal side of things ahead of time, such as making sure their estate is in order, their assets are protected, and that power of attorney passes to the person that they want, and these elder law planning tips can help you in helping them. You can make a checklist of things to prepare as soon as you get your diagnosis to make sure your parent is as legally protected as possible.
Establishing better communications
Alzheimer’s can change the way that we think, recall, and how we talk. As such, as the symptoms progress, you may find that it can be more difficult to communicate with your parent as time goes on. When it comes time to visit them, for instance, you may find that they are more easily startled, as well as more easily distracted. There are plenty of effective communication tips that you can follow to make sure that you can carry on conversations with them as best as possible. For instance, it’s always recommended that you reminisce with them if they are particularly talkative. If your parent is inaccurate in their statements, it’s usually recommended that you do not try to correct them but simply accept their reality fo the sake of their mood.
Be sure to include them in the conversation
The time may come when your parent isn’t as able to take part in the conversations regarding their own care, treatment, and quality of life as they once were. However, to exclude them from these conversations can be more detrimental to their health than anything. Their independence is still important to them even as their conversation skills decline. By not including them in the conversation, it’s also easier to make assumptions that don’t apply to their symptoms at the moment. It’s vital to keep engaging with them about questions that have an impact on their life as the condition progresses, even if they are not able to contribute as much.
Help them stay active
As well as helping them prepare for the challenges that living with the condition might bring, it’s also important that you take the time to help them find the healthy lifestyle choices that can keep them in better condition for longer. There are several ways that your loved one can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. With the doctor’s advice, find out what exercise they can safely and reliably do. If they are older, you might need to find low impact exercises such as walking or cycling for them. Regular exercise, when done three to four times a week, has been shown to have a significant impact in decreasing symptoms, not to mention keeping them more physically able and less likely to injure themselves.
Maintain a healthy social life
One of the greatest dangers for anyone who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia is that of isolation. Not only is it terrible for mental and emotional health, but it has been shown to both be a risk factor of the condition itself, and closely tied to progressing symptoms. Aside from visiting and calling when able, and encouraging other members of the family to do the same, you can also help them find social groups and peers of their own to spend their time with. A local Alzheimer’s support group may be able to help them find groups specifically designed to find activities for people with the condition to do together to round out their social lives.
Be there to support them emotionally
Just as you should take the time to process your feelings about your parent and their diagnosis, you should understand that they are likely to have all manner of reactions to the news, as well. They may want some time to sort their own thoughts out and you should give them the room to do that, if necessary. However, otherwise, you should offer to be there to offer them an ear to talk to, listen to their concerns, do not downplay them, and work through their emotions with them. If possible, encourage them to take charge and to be active in making decisions for their future now, instead of assuming they no longer have any control.
If you have learned that your parent has Alzheimer’s, then the single best way to handle it is to get moving with the process of planning for their future as best as possible. The tips above can help point you in the right direction, but it is important to remember that every individual’s needs are difficult, as well.