Alzheimer’s Diagnosis: What Happens Next?

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Receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease is a very overwhelming experience, both for the person diagnosed, as well as for family and friends. It is important that certain issues be addressed after the diagnosis has been made.

This article will review some of the common recommendations that doctors such as myself make for those with Alzheimer's disease:

  1. The most important step after receiving this diagnosis is to begin treatment. There are four different medications that have been proven effective in slowing the progress of Alzheimer's (currently there is no cure). Three of these medications (Aricept, Exelon, and Razadyne) are very similar and therefore typically only one of them is prescribed. The fourth medication is called Namenda and can be taken in conjunction with any of the first three. In the early stages of this disorder, it often is not necessary for a patient to be on both medications, although there can be exceptions. It is important to know that these medications cannot dramatically improve a person's memory, but rather are geared towards slowing down the rate of memory loss.
  2. Memory problems can increase the risk of people making mistakes with taking their medications or managing their finances. For this reason, such individuals should receive assistance with these areas. This is when a caregiver must step in to lend help – or find outside resources to do so.
  3. Driving skills are also affected by Alzheimer's disease. In the earlier stages of the disease, the person should undergo a driving evaluation. This is can be arranged through the Department of Motor Vehicles. Caregivers be prepared: elders typically don't give up the keys without a fight. As the disease progresses, driving becomes impossible.
  4. Because Alzheimer's disease is a progressive disorder, it is important to consult with a financial planner so that funds are set aside for long-term care. One should also contact an elder law attorney to obtain a document called a Durable Power of Attorney (POA). This document allows a person to designate who they would want to handle their affairs (medical, financial, etc.) if they should become incapacitated.
  5. I encourage all my Alzheimer's patients to be as mentally and physically active as possible since these factors may help slow down the rate of memory loss. My patients often ask me to tell them what specific activities I recommend. I inform them that it is more important that they chose an activity that they enjoy so that they do it often.
  6. Diet may also play an important role in slowing down the rate of memory loss. I recommend eating a diet rich in nutrients and antioxidants such as Vitamins A, C, and E. These nutrients may help protect the brain from unstable molecules (free radicals) that are often associated with conditions such as Alzheimer's disease. Foods that have B complex vitamins such as folic acid also seem to protect the brain from damage. Antioxidants and folic acid are found in many fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  7. If someone has been diagnosed with a more advanced form of Alzheimer's, homecare is often not a viable option and arrangements need to be made for relocation to an assisted living facility or a nursing home.

A wise man once said that knowledge is power. This common saying applies to those with Alzheimer's disease as well since the more you know the more prepared you are to cope.

Sue Maxwell developed the Memory Care Clinic, which provides evaluation, treatment, as well as family counseling and community outreach for people affected by memory loss.

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6 Comments

Don't be afraid to go to take your loved one to a neurologist as soon as you realize there is a problem. The sooner you know the better off you are! Slowing down the progression is the goal as far as I am concerned. There are many other things you can do to help ease the flustration that comes with the illness. For instance, it they take a long time deciding what to eat at a restaurant, suggest something or discretely hand the waiter a card that says "Please be patient my father, etc has a memory disorder". Don't ask "would you like to go for a walk?" Say, it is time for our walk" If you have a disagreement, leave the room for a few minutes, when you get back they will have forgotten all about it. Don't try to deceive them. My mother in law had problems swollowing large pills so her husband cut them up and put them in her food and she though he was trying to poison her by putting something in her food! Don't try to logically show them how to do a task, they only get upset! Again my father in law was bound he was going to relearn his wife how to tie her shoes! Forget it! I solved the problem by getting her shoes with velcro on them. Her rings were loose on her finger so her husband took them off and put them away. She was sure someone had stolen them, so I put them on a chair around her neck so she would know where they were. I could go on with suggestions for hours but find a support group and share what areas you are having problems with. Some caregivers come up with simple answers not in the text books that will help solve your problem in a minute. And most important of all, if they go to a nursing home encourage family to visit them! Many do not want to go and say "Oh, I want to remember them as they use to be" That is a bunch of bull! Even if they do not know who they are (and you should tell them the minute you see them who you are!) the patient is still getting a visitor and it relieves you a little. Make a photo album with family pictures and put the names under the pictures. Don't spend your time asking "why John?", Why did this happen to my family?" It is what it is! Suck it up, deal with the situation and do a lot of praying for patience and wisdom!
Dad is 94 and 3 weeks ago "failed" his doc's dementia test. He had been driving, but the doc thought it was best that he didn't drive anymore. I have POA and immediately took his car keys and his drivers license home with me. Within 3 days, I sold both of his cars. Why have him know they are in the garage yet he can't drive? To me that was cruel, so I made sure they were gone ASAP. He lives alone and so far is doing well. Forgetful, yes, but he knows to write his own checks and makes sure they're entered in the check register. Yes, I do help him with this. I am joint owner of his bank accounts. He has a date book that he writes his appointments in as we make them and also writes them on a calendar. My biggest concern now with him is that he doesn't shower. He "washes" himself. I know that he wears clothes way too long and then hangs them up and puts on another pair that he wore way too long then hung up, yet he has me take him and his shirts to the dry cleaner. I take him to the grocery store 3 times a week. Always a list. He has sufficient funds to eat very well, yet he checks the price of everything and only eats the same things daily. I don't mind this as this is his routine. His last blood work came back perfectly! I wish mine was as good. He's forgetful, sometimes asking me the same things over and over and will forget in the morning what I told him at night, but he's good with taking his meds, eating, etc. 94 next month, I think he's doing really well. I know things will not stay as good as they are, and nobody can predict the future, but has anyone any idea how long this phase may last? Right now, I know he'd not allow anyone in to help him other than me and I really think that he doesn't need it at this time. I would like him to be more stringent in his hygiene, but it could also be much worse. I take him for rides a few times a week, along with the grocery store, the doctors and today for a haircut. Pretty good for 94, huh? It's just the near future I'm concerned about. Oh yes, and he does not use the stove. Not event the microwave.
I have found Lion's Mane mushroom extract from Host Defense to be an invaluable adjunct to slowing the progress of my mother's Alzheimers Disease. I only wish I had found the stuff much earlier.