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Living with Alzheimer’s
Receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), whether personally or regarding a loved one, can be life-changing.1 Initial reactions to the news can include anger, fear, denial, and a host of uncertainties.1
Symptoms of AD often start with memory loss and slowly progress to include confusion and loss of judgment, trouble with multistep tasks, communication issues, mood changes, and finally the ability to live independently.3 Discussing treatment options with a medical care team can help provide the resources and support needed to cope with the diagnosis.1 Alzheimer’s support groups are another source of advice and encouragement and help maintain social connections to decrease feelings of isolation that may accompany an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis.1
In the US, around 80% of people with Alzheimer’s disease receive in home care from friends and family members, adding up to an estimated 16 million caretakers.2 Both caregivers and their loved ones need to establish ways of dealing with the challenges of daily living.1,2 This can be done by creating realistic goals and understanding that these will likely change over time as the disease progresses.4 For example, leaving notes or reminders for important tasks. Alzheimer’s support groups for both patients and caregivers are another way to help ease the challenges that come with this diagnosis.
Long-term planning is another important aspect of living with Alzheimer’s disease. Discussing legal issues, financial planning, and end-of-life care with all involved parties are vital to alleviating the stress and uncertainty that inevitably comes as mental and physical functions deteriorate.4
Caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease are more likely to provide general care or in home care for at least 4 years compared to those with other medical illnesses.2 This can affect a caregiver’s ability to take care of themselves, putting them at greater risk for anxiety, depression, and poorer quality of life.2 For this reason, people with AD and their caregivers both benefit from stress management techniques. Staying active, joining Alzheimer’s support groups, performing meditation and breathing exercises, keeping a diary or journal, and engaging in music or art are all examples of ways to mitigate the stress that comes with a chronic illness and the responsibility of caring for a loved one.5
- Alzheimer’s Association®. Just Diagnosed. https://www.alz.org/help-support/i-have-alz/know-what-to-expect/just-diagnosed
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Caregiving for a Person with Alzheimer’s Disease or a Related Dementia. https://www.cdc.gov/aging/caregiving/alzheimer.htm
- Kumar A, Sidhu J, Goyal A, et al. Alzheimer Disease. StatPearls. 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499922/
- Alzheimer’s Association®. Plan for your future.https://www.alz.org/help-support/i-have-alz/plan-for-your-future
- Alzheimer’s Association®. Be a healthy caregiver. https://www.alz.org/help-support/caregiving/caregiver-health/be_a_healthy_caregiver
All URLs accessed November 2, 2022.