Coping with a Family Member's Alzheimer's Diagnosis

Alzheimer's Is a Challenge - Find ways to Help Your Cope

Mother and daughter unpacking groceries in kitchen
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Being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease can be difficult to cope with for the individual, family, and friends. It can sometimes be a difficult and emotional transition for a family struggling to deal with the news, but it is by no means impossible to cope in a healthy way.

Around 5.4 million people in the US are diagnosed with or have symptoms of Alzheimer's in some form. Consequently, there are many places where you can now get extra help and assistance, as well as advice on living with Alzheimer's so you don't have to feel that you need to cope alone.

Get an Understanding - One of the most important things you can do to help you cope with the discovery of a family member's diagnosis is to gain an understanding of the disease. It can be frightening but if you know what's happening and the different stages, it may make things a little easier in the long-term.

The more information you have, the better you can prepare yourself and the rest of the family. In the early stages of Alzheimer's, you may find that your loved one has short-term memory loss but still keeps their long-term memories. Becoming withdrawn and having a decreased attention span are also common symptoms, along with feeling moody and getting lost in familiar areas. This early stage of Alzheimer's commonly lasts for around two to four years, before progressing to the moderate stage.

Don't be a Stranger - You may find that some people are uncomfortable with the news but that doesn't mean that they won't come around and be there for you.

Explain to friends what will happen and what to expect so they can gain an understanding and don't be afraid to lean on them when things become more difficult, and your loved one reaches the advanced, or late, stage.

Trying to cope with the news of a loved one's diagnosis can be hard but good friends will hopefully try to make it easier for you.

It can also be worthwhile to visit a support group where you can share stories and advice with other people going through a similar thing.

Be Brave - While it can be a very scary time, try to be brave for the person who has been diagnosed. It's still possible to live a very active, fulfilling life with Alzheimer's and the earlier stages are often the time to make the most of things.

Book a holiday abroad and just enjoy yourselves for a few days. Or you might want to re-visit a favourite place that you went to together in the past. Keeping up with any hobbies is often considered to be good for people with Alzheimer's, so consider going with your loved one and doing the hobby together. Exercise the mind by doing crosswords or Sudoku, both of which can be done together. These activities will give you a chance to bond, as well as helping to keep the mind alert for the both of you.

Stay on top of things - If you adopt a role as a carer, it's easy to get bogged down and let your own health fall by the wayside.

While this might not seem hugely important, if you fall ill, it can make things worse. Make sure you take good care of yourself, get enough sleep, eat regularly and make sure you exercise. Often, it can make things easier if you do these things together with the person you're caring for. This way, you both stay physically healthy but you don't have to sacrifice time together to do those daily essentials.

Author Byline: Lauren Sutton is a journalist from the UK who writes for Free Spirit, a specialist in Alzheimer's travel insurance. Find out more about the difficulties people face when travelling with medical conditions on the Free Spirit Blog.

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