A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia can change your world. However, by following these steps, you will be able to accept yourself, face your obstacles, and go on with your life.
Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis: Emotional consequences
“I believed my life was coming to an end.” I was aware of Alzheimer’s disease, but I never imagined it could strike me.” After receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, many people are filled with anxiety, bewilderment, and dismay. It is a life-altering event that can be quite upsetting for you and your loved ones.
If you have been diagnosed with dementia, you may experience feelings of rage, astonishment, and anxiety about how your memory and personality may alter in the future, as well as tremendous sadness and grief over the loss of your old life.
You may experience low self-esteem due to your diagnosis, or you may feel stigmatized as others begin to treat you differently. You could also feel alienated, and shut off from even your closest friends and family members who do not comprehend what you are going through.
Common reactions include denial or resistance to recognizing what is happening. Some people even feel relieved after receiving a diagnosis, knowing what is wrong, and being able to plan forward. Most likely, you will feel a combination of these opposing feelings at the same time. The emotional upheaval that follows a diagnosis might lead to sadness or anxiety.
While there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s or dementia, this does not imply that a diagnosis means your life is over or that you are powerless to fight the condition. Some symptoms have treatments, and implementing lifestyle changes can help reduce the disease’s progression, delay the onset of more debilitating symptoms, and prolong your quality of life.
You are not alone. We are all unique, and no two people will react to a dementia diagnosis in the same way. There is no such thing as a “correct” or “incorrect” reaction, so do not tell yourself what you should be thinking or feeling.
Allow yourself time to comprehend the news and adjust to your new circumstances. You could feel like you have arrived at acceptance one day and then be overcome by tough feelings the next. Allow yourself to adjust and grieve.
Be kind to yourself. Alzheimer’s disease is not your fault, and there is no reason to feel guilty about it. With time, you will be able to move beyond the shock of the diagnosis and prepare for the challenges ahead.
Reaffirm your sense of self. Alzheimer’s disease or any form of dementia does not have to define who you are. You are still the same person you were before you were diagnosed. Pursue roles that define your sense of self, such as spouse, parent, grandparent, entrepreneur, gardener, cyclist, musician, volunteer, and friend.
Allow yourself to experience emotions. Whether you want to admit it or not, unpleasant emotions exist. Ignoring your sentiments will simply add to your tension and make it more difficult to accept your new circumstances. Allowing yourself to feel your emotions, on the other hand, will allow you to see a road forward.
Even the most powerful, unpleasant feelings will pass, the shock and distress will diminish, and you will be able to see a path forward. Try writing down your feelings, talking to someone about them, or using the Emotional Intelligence Toolkit from HelpGuide.
Learn everything you can about the form of dementia with which you have been diagnosed. Whether you have Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, or another type of dementia, learning everything you can will help you manage symptoms and even delay the disease’s course.
Seek help as soon as possible. Because dementia symptoms can be caused by a variety of illnesses, it is crucial to get a proper diagnosis as soon as possible, especially if symptoms emerge unexpectedly. Strokes, drug interactions, malignancies, and seizures should all be treated as soon as possible. Other physical and psychological variables may also be controlled or eliminated with timely action.
Adapt your surroundings. Simple precautions, such as reducing tripping hazards, improving illumination, adopting daily routines, and posting reminder notes where you need them most, can help you maintain your health and autonomy for longer. Keep objects you use on a regular basis in easy-to-remember locations, such as keys on a hook near the door.
You can also keep organized by using phone applications, calendars, and alarms. Planning and flexibility can help you stay one step ahead of your needs as they change throughout time.
While receiving a dementia diagnosis is one of the last things anyone wants to hear, knowing what you are up against allows you to begin taking action to guarantee you can live your life to the fullest for as long as possible.
Tip 1: Reach out if you have been diagnosed with dementia.
When you are diagnosed with dementia, you may feel lonely and alone. You could feel isolated from friends and family because they do not fully get what you are going through. To dread being a burden to others, you may withdraw into your shell. You might be concerned about how your relationships will change if people find out you have dementia. While these concerns are understandable, they should not be used as an excuse to isolate yourself. The affection and support of others can have a big impact on your mood and outlook during this tough period.
Living with Alzheimer’s disease or any kind of dementia is difficult, but there is support available. Do not wait for people to come to your aid; take the initiative and reach out. The more help you receive, the better you will be able to deal with your symptoms and continue to live a full life.
Keep in touch with family and friends. Maintaining strong relationships and participating in social activities can have a significant impact on your health and outlook. Retirement, relocation, and the loss of loved ones can all cause our social networks to decrease as we get older, but it is never too late to make new, meaningful friendships.
Please contact the Alzheimer’s Association in your area. There are Alzheimer’s groups all around the world that provide a wide range of support programs for persons suffering from various types of dementia. Many can connect you with people who are suffering from similar issues, as well as volunteers who can provide support, guidance, and company. For example, early-stage social engagement programs can help you meet other people who have recently been diagnosed. The connections are listed below.
Seek out spiritual guidance. Religious leaders may provide followers with genuine comfort as well as ongoing social contact. Following a dementia diagnosis, even those who do not frequently attend religious services may turn to religion. If you are not religious, a therapist or counselor may be a better option.
Discussing your diagnosis with others While relatives and friends can be extremely helpful, deciding who to inform about your illness is always a very personal decision. For example, you could wish to share it with simply your immediate family first, then with a larger group of friends and acquaintances later. Whatever path you choose, it is critical not to go it alone and deprive others who care about you of the opportunity to assist you.
It is also crucial to be ready for a wide range of reactions. People close to you may experience the same mix of shock, anger, grief, and despair as you did when you learned of your diagnosis. It is important to remember that you do not have to cover everything at once. As you and your loved ones learn more about the condition and the obstacles you will face in the future, your first chat with them is likely to be only the beginning of a long conversation.
One of the most difficult aspects of being diagnosed with dementia may be the influence it has on your relationships. You may become more dependent on your spouse, children, or friends as your independence fades. Others may take up your job as a provider, financial decision-maker, or designated driver, and you may lose that function. Some elderly friends may withdraw as a result of your diagnosis, which may raise uneasy questions about their own health.
Tip 2: Take actions to prevent symptoms from worsening.
Even if you have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, there is still a lot you can do to slow down the disease’s progression. The same healthy lifestyle adjustments and mental stimulation tactics that can help prevent or delay the beginning of dementia can also help reduce the disease’s course and keep you independent for longer.
1. Get up and about. Regular exercise stimulates the brain’s ability to preserve old connections, form new ones, and slow cognitive degeneration.
2. Make an effort to connect with others. The more you engage socially and connect face-to-face with others, the better your cognitive performance will be.
3. Eat healthily. A brain-healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, can assist to reduce inflammation, protect neurons, and improve brain cell communication.
4. Make an effort to keep your mind active. You may develop your cognitive skills and stay mentally active for longer by continuing to learn new things and challenging your brain.
5. Get better sleep. Getting enough sleep can help to wash out toxins from the brain and prevent the formation of harmful plaques.
6. Take care of your tension. Stress that is not managed has a toll on the brain, diminishing a crucial memory area, slowing nerve cell growth, and exacerbating Alzheimer’s symptoms. Relaxation and other stress management techniques can help you de-stress and reclaim control.
7. Take care of your heart. What is beneficial to your heart is equally beneficial to your brain. Controlling your blood pressure, keeping an eye on your cholesterol levels, reducing your alcohol intake, and quitting smoking can all help your heart and brain health.
Tip 3: Engage in meaningful activities that are enjoyable to you
Alzheimer’s disease or another kind of dementia does not imply your life must come to a halt. You can continue to nourish your spirit and find pleasure and purpose in life by engaging in meaningful activities and relationships. Even if your symptoms worsen and certain hobbies become difficult, you can still nourish and enhance your spirit in other ways.
If you can no longer paint, for example, you may still be able to appreciate the art of others by visiting museums. Even if you are unable to cook, you may be able to help plan the menu and buy ingredients. While we all have our own unique ways of finding meaning and joy, you might want to consider:
Pursue your favorite activities and pastimes. Participating in things that matter to you can help you keep your identity while also enriching your life. To keep your curiosity piqued or to try new things, enroll in a class or join a group.
Make a name for yourself. Many persons with dementia are conscious of how they wish to be remembered in the early stages. Perhaps you would like to pass on your talents and expertise to others or leave a legacy for your grandkids to enjoy. You might want to produce photo albums, write memoirs or a how-to book, share your favorite recipes, document family customs, or do genealogy research. Or maybe you just want to spend time with your closest friends and family to make new memories.
Take part in Alzheimer’s disease research or clinical trials. Many patients acquire a tremendous feeling of purpose from contributing to the advancement of dementia medical knowledge and assisting future generations—in addition to gaining access to innovative treatments.
Volunteer for a cause that you care about. Nothing improves one’s life more than assisting others. It can also help you pass on valuable skills and experiences you have gained over your work and life. You might also wish to volunteer for a dementia organization to help promote awareness, enhance services, or help others who are dealing with their diagnosis. Travel to a destination you have always wanted to visit or to a particular place for you. Keep a journal of your travels and share them with family and friends or on social media.
Spend time in the great outdoors. Spending time in green settings, whether hiking, fishing, camping, or simply walking in the park, can relieve stress, increase spirituality, and make you feel better.
Take pleasure in positive events. Even if your symptoms have worsened and your abilities have been significantly harmed, try to concentrate on the little things you can still perform. Even in the final stages of dementia, people with dementia are still capable of enjoying and offering enjoyment and connection with the right care.
Tip 4: Deal with despair and anxiety.
Depression and anxiety are typical among Alzheimer’s sufferers in the early stages. Symptoms like withdrawal, agitation, feelings of worthlessness, and changes in sleeping habits, on the other hand, can exacerbate dementia symptoms and limit your freedom. Do not dismiss signs and symptoms. There are a variety of self-help options available to help you overcome anxiety and depression, in addition to counseling and medication.
- Learning to confront anxious ideas and build a more balanced perspective on your new circumstances will assist you in accepting your diagnosis and reducing anxiety.
- Opening up and discussing your concerns and other feelings with someone who makes you feel comfortable and encouraged might help you feel better.
- Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and better sleep are all established strategies to alleviate sadness and anxiety symptoms.
Tip 5: Make a future plan.
Getting your finances in order and deciding how you want your healthcare handled can offer you a sense of control over your future, even if it is difficult to contemplate. Talk to your loved ones and let them know what you want.
With your doctors and family members, discuss and document your treatment and end-of-life preferences. When you can no longer make decisions for yourself, appoint someone you can trust to make them for you.
Making your wishes known may be empowering, even if these conversations are tough. You will also avoid future medical, financial, and legal complications by making key decisions early. If you are a single person, as we become older, more and more of us are finding ourselves living alone.
While a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or related dementia does not have to change everything right once, it does make it even more necessary to plan ahead. It is typically up to you to realize when you need help with housework, meal preparation, bill payments, driving, and day-to-day care if you do not have a spouse or partner. As the condition worsens and your thinking alters, this might be tough.
You are more likely to fall, have an accident, or stray if you live alone. However, if you plan ahead of time for how your requirements will be addressed, you will be able to preserve your independence for longer.
- Household, personal care, and transportation can be assisted by care services.
- Care services can assist with medical needs, and provide socialization opportunities.
- Consider Meals on Wheels, a food delivery service.
- Allow someone you trust to legally manage financial problems like bill payments.
- To guarantee that you take your meds on time, use apps or other reminder systems.
- To help in an emergency, choose a medical alert system with a wearable device.
- If you become lost, a wandering response service can assist you in locating yourself.
Someone close diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia
You will be coping with a lot of painful feelings if someone close to you has been diagnosed with dementia. You can be grieving for your loved ones, especially if they have considerable memory loss. It is critical to give yourself and your loved one time to process the information. Encourage your loved ones to express how they are feeling and be there to talk whenever they are ready.
Do not use cliches like “remain positive” or compare their position to someone else’s when speaking to someone about their dementia diagnosis. Allow them to express themselves honestly, even if it is tough to hear, or they will become enraged and unhappy. Remember, you do not have to give them answers; all you have to do is listen and give them a hug or a sympathetic touch to show them you care.
Find out more about dementia. Knowing what to expect will help you plan for care and transitions, as well as identify your loved one’s abilities as the condition progresses. Caregiving for a loved one may be a truly fulfilling experience, despite its many hardships.
As much as possible, involve your loved one in decision-making. Support your loved one’s freedom and self-care in the early stages, but be prepared for their cognitive and physical decline to eventually necessitate 24-hour care.
Do not do it alone when it comes to caring for others. No matter how dedicated you are, you will require assistance in caring for others so that you can focus on your own health and other responsibilities. The sooner you build a support system, the less difficult it will be to provide care. Help from other family members, professional in-home help, respite care, or even relocating your loved one to a nursing home or other care facility is all options for support.
Take advantage of the time you have with your partner. Although a diagnosis of dementia is painful in many ways, it does provide you the opportunity to cherish the time you have left with your loved one. Rather than focusing on what your loved one has lost, focus on what they can still do. Also, do not miss out on the chance to say your goodbyes, something many people who lose someone unexpectedly regret missing out on.
If you are interested in reading more about such diseases, here’s an article about why there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s disease.