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

References

  1. Alzheimer’s Association®. Just Diagnosed. https://www.alz.org/help-support/i-have-alz/know-what-to-expect/just-diagnosed
  2. 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
  3. Kumar A, Sidhu J, Goyal A, et al. Alzheimer Disease. StatPearls. 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499922/
  4. Alzheimer’s Association®. Plan for your future.https://www.alz.org/help-support/i-have-alz/plan-for-your-future
  5. 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.

Scientific Council

Liana G. Apostolova, MD, MSc, FAAN

Indiana University Distinguished Professor
Barbara and Peer Baekgaard Professor in Alzheimer's Disease Research
Professor in Neurology, Radiology, Medical and Molecular Genetics
Indiana University School of Medicine
Department of Neurology
Indianapolis, IN

Alireza Atri, MD, PhD

Director, Banner Sun Health Research Institute
Banner Health
Sun City, AZ
Lecturer on Neurology, Center for Brain/Mind Medicine
Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School
Boston, MA

Brad Dickerson, MD

Director, Frontotemporal Disorders Unit
Massachusetts General Hospital
Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School
Boston, MA

Richard M. Dupee, MD, MACP, AGSF

Clinical Professor of Medicine
Tufts University School of Medicine
Clinical professor, Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Tufts University
Chief, Geriatrics Service, Tufts Medical Center
Senior Physician, Pratt Diagnostic Center
Dean ex officio, Office of International Affairs, Tufts University School of Medicine
Boston, MA

James E. Galvin, MD, MPH

Professor of Neurology
University of Miami Miller School of Medicine
Miami, FL

George T. Grossberg MD

Professor and Director, Division of Geriatric Psychiatry
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience
Saint Louis University School of Medicine
St. Louis, MO

Scott A. Kaiser, MD

Director of Geriatric Cognitive Health
Pacific Neuroscience Institute
Santa Monica, CA

Diana R. Kerwin, MD, CPI

President, Kerwin Medical Center
Chief, Geriatric Medicine, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital
Dallas, TX

Marwan Noel Sabbagh, MD, FAAN, CCRI

Professor of Neurology
Alzheimer’s and Memory Disorders Division
Associate Program Director for Research-Neurology Residency
Barrow Neurological Institute
Research Professor, University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix
Clinical Professor of Neurology, Creighton University
Phoenix, AZ

Paul E. Schulz, MD

Rick McCord Professor in Neurology
Umphrey Family Professor of Neurodegenerative Diseases
Director, Neurocognitive Disorders Center
Director, Neurocognitive Disorders Fellowship
McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston
Houston, TX

Geoffrey C. Wall, PharmD, FCCP, BCPS

John R. Ellis Distinguished Chair of Pharmacy Practice
Professor of Clinical Sciences
Director, Drake Drug Information Center
Drake University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
Internal Medicine Clinical Pharmacist
Iowa Methodist Medical Center
Des Moines, IA

David A. Wolk, MD, FAAN

Professor of Neurology
Director, Penn Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA