Diagnosed With Alzheimer's: More Things You Can Do
Encourage your loved one to share the diagnosis.
In the early stages, it's best to defer to him or her about whom to tell. At the same time, do nudge him or her, if you're comfortable doing so, to share the news with at least some close friends and family so that they can offer support. (They'll probably be relieved to know he or she is addressing the lapses they've been noticing.) If your loved one refuses to spread the word out of a sense of shame, try telling him or her that Alzheimer's is a physical disease just like cancer and heart disease -- and that it's one that more than 4 million people in the United States share. It's nothing to be ashamed of.
If this becomes a contentious issue, think about asking a neutral party, such as a nurse or geriatric care consultant, to talk to him or her about the benefits of sharing some information about the condition as well as strategies for how to make this as comfortable as possible. You may eventually find it necessary to discreetly tell close friends and family yourself.
Check out support for you and your loved one.
Joining a support group, whether online or in your local area, can be useful, even if your loved one has just been diagnosed. There are groups specifically organized for people with early-stage Alzheimer's as well as for their family members and friends. You also may learn a lot and draw support by attending care-giving seminars or classes available in your area.
One specific kind of support to consider is informal caregiver training. Regular meetings with a social worker or other professional can advise you on how to apply Alzheimer's care in your specific situation.
Confide in an inner circle of friends and family. Identify who can help you with day-to-day caregiver responsibilities, especially when you're unavailable or need some respite or a compassionate listener.
Have "the talk" about financial and legal inquiries.
Make the most now of your loved one's ability to understand and make some good decisions about financial and legal issues, since they have implications for everyone.
Reassure your loved one that your goal is to help him or her maintain control, with some support from you (or someone else) when needed, rather than to take over control. Plans may involve asset management, wills, guardianship, and powers of attorney. Try pointing out that if your loved one doesn't handle these issues while he or she can make certain decisions, you may have to go through expensive, distracting court proceedings later on to help take care of financial or healthcare matters. If he or she hesitates or refuses to make any concrete plans, try to coordinate a meeting with a qualified professional who can serve as a neutral third party, such as a financial planner, a lawyer, or a social worker.