Dealing with an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

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If someone in your family has gotten an Alzheimer's disease diagnosis, you may be devastated and wonder just what is ahead of you. Finding out that a loved one has Alzheimer's disease (AD) can be stressful, frightening, and overwhelming.

Once you get over the initial shock and disappointment and possibly anger and rage you need to begin to go forward and take steps that will protect you, your family and your loved one. As you begin to take stock of the situation, here are some tips that may help:

Talk to Your Doctor

Ask the doctor any questions you have about Alzheimer's disease. Find out what treatments might work best to alleviate symptoms or address behavior problems.

Educate Yourself

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.

Know What to Expect

Learn about the stages of Alzheimer's disease, and the changes that may occur in your elderly parent as the disease progresses.

Prepare Family and Friends

Explain that Alzheimer’s is a brain disease, 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 person.

Talk to Your Loved One

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 also the most important conversations that you have. Having the end of life talk with an elderly parent is never easy, and 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 a person cannot be maintained in the home? Do you have the finances to pay for extended care? What do you want done when you die?

Find 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.

Begin to Plan for the Future

Consider Safety Devices

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.

Look for Patterns

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.

Take a Break

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.


The National Institute on Aging (NIA), one of the 27 Institutes and Centers of the National Institute of Health (NIH) leads a broad scientific effort to understand the nature of aging and to extend the healthy, active years of life.

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