A diagnosis of early-stage Alzheimer’s disease may cause concerns and questions for both you and your loved one who has received the news.
The timetable of the disease is different in every person, however, there are actions that can be taken now to help plan for the future. Your role as caregiver is a partnership during this time as you provide support, love, and assistance with the daily activities as well as considering the long-term plan. Your loved one may still function independently and have many more, good days than bad days, but this is an important time to learn more about the disease, know what to look for in your loved one as the disease progresses, and get a couple of things in place now.
Receiving the diagnosis from the health care provider is a very emotional time. The person with the disease will process this information and may be frustrated, scared, and embarrassed, which are all-natural responses to the news. Providing support and identifying systems now that can be put in place to help as the disease progresses is critical.
Calendars, task lists, medication schedules, and a contact book with names and key information are all important activities for you and your loved one to begin creating together. These references can help trigger the memory and serve as references during the early stages of the disease. The conversations may be difficult, but now is also the time to begin discussions about the long-term plan to ensure you hear the wishes of your loved one. This includes health care, financial, legal as well as safety decisions.
Your loved one may not experience significant progression of the disease for years or it could progress quickly. It is important for him/her to continue with activities and try to keep daily routines as much as he/she is able to. However, as a caregiver, it is also important to stay alert for changes in memory, responses, or behavior. As these changes occur, daily activities may need to be modified to ensure safety.
There will be many ups and downs but both of you will benefit by trying to keep life as normal as possible as well as incorporating new daily routines to help serve as memory triggers and references for your loved one.