By Dr. Mikol Davis
Q: My father was just diagnosed with Alzheimer's. He's devastated. What can we as a family do to help?
A: Alzheimer's is indeed a devastating diagnosis for anyone to deal with. Much fear is associated with it, as there is, unfortunately no cure as yet. You can encourage your father to talk about how it feels among your family members. You can offer to accompany him to an Alzheimer's support group. You can offer your reassurance to him that you'll be with him on this journey in his life, and that you will see to it that he is safe.
I suggest that you encourage him to update all legal documents he needs and make them available to the family, for his peace of mind and yours. It can also be helpful for everyone in the family to educate yourselves about Alzheimer's disease, using your local community resources and the Alzheimer's Association, which is a very good source of information for all of you.
Finally, it is wise to spend as much time together as you can, enjoying the things that your father and your family like to do. The stages of Alzheimer's disease will cause a progressive loss of memory. It is important for the family to enjoy the moment, and to have as many positive experiences as you can with your father for as long as he is able to participate. Even if he forgets what happened a short time later, one needs to practice living for right now when you are with him. Remember that now is the time to plan for the future needs of your father with your family, don't wait for a medical crisis.
Dr. Mikol Davis is a psychologist specializing in aging issues. He is the author of "Rainbows of Life" and founder of the Aging Parents website.