When someone in your family receives an Alzheimer's disease diagnosis, it is often devastating and quite overwhelming. Families wonder just what lies ahead for an aging parent or spouse. Once the family has absorbed the initial shock and disappointment of an Alzheimer's diagnosis it is an important time to take action. Move forward by taking steps that will protect you, your family and your elderly loved one.

Use the following dementia care tips as a guide:

Consider a Geriatric Doctor

If your primary care physician does not have experience in treating dementia, consider adding a geriatric doctor or neurologist to your senior care team. Ask the doctor any questions you have about Alzheimer's disease. There is no cure for Alzheimer's disease, however find out what treatments might work best to alleviate symptoms or address behavior problems.

Educate Yourself about Dementia

Learn as much as you can about Alzheimer's disease. Knowledge helps to alleviate fear and feelings of helplessness.

Contact organizations such as the Alzheimer's Association and the Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center for more information about the disease, treatment options, and caregiving resources. Some community groups may offer classes to teach caregiving, problem-solving, and management skills.

Expect Progressive Cognitive Decline

Learn about the stages of Alzheimer's disease, and the changes that may occur in your elderly parent as the disease progresses. Everyone experiences the stages of the disease in different ways at different times, however having an overview of the general progression can help a family member identify if another health problem is occuring that is causing symptoms that need to be addressed.

Discuss the Alzheimer's Diagnosis

Prepare your family and friends. Explain that Alzheimer's is a disease that affects the brain, not a psychological or emotional disorder. Share any educational materials that you have compiled. The more that people learn about the disease, the more comfortable they may feel around the changes they experience.

Preparing yourself and your family for what lies ahead is crucial, but there is another person who is equally as important: the person who has just been diganosed with Alzheimer's. It is vitally important to begin planning. Having important elder care and end of life conversations with an elderly spouse or parent is never easy, however you have to ask the hard questions. What does the person who has been diagnosed want? Do they want to live at home as long as possible? What is going to happen if they cannot be maintained in the home? Do you have the finances to pay for extended care? What continuing care and funeral plans are in place?

Consider an Elder Law Attorney

The unfortunate reality of an Alzheimer's diagnosis is the eventual determination of legal incompetence. Family members must prepare the documents necessary to make decisions on behalf of a loved one when they can no longer do so themselves. Encourage your loved one to legally indicate their financial, housing, and medical decisions while they are still able to do so.

  • Gather financial information and prepare to manage finances if the need arises.
  • Get legal documents in order
  • Investigate long-term care options
  • Determine what services are covered by your current health insurance and Medicare.

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Alzheimer's Safety at Home

Door locks, personal safety devices and wandering prevention techniques will become necessary as Alzheimer's disease progresses and your loved one moves through the stages of dementia.

Daily Routines and Dementia

Study your day to see if you can develop a routine that makes things go more smoothly. If there are times of day when the person with AD is less confused or more cooperative, plan your routine to make the most of those moments. Keep in mind that the way the person functions may change from day to day, so try to be flexible and adapt your routine as needed.

Find Caregiver Support

Find a support group where you can share your feelings and concerns. Members of support groups often have helpful ideas or know of useful resources based on their own experiences. Online support groups, such as the AgingCare.com community, make it possible for caregivers to receive support without having to leave home.

Caregiver Respite

Consider using adult day care or respite services to ease the day-to-day demands of caregiving. These services allow you to have a break while knowing that the person with AD is being well cared for.

Source: The National Institute on Aging (NIA), https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/alzheimers-disease-diagnostic-guidelines