Guest Blog: 4 Actions to Take After an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis
November 15, 2016
There are approximately 5 million Americans currently living with Alzheimer’s. This degenerative cognitive disorder is most prevalent among our senior population and undoubtedly creates many complicated changes for patients and those close to them.
It’s a devastating diagnosis to receive, and it takes time for those with the illness and their loved ones to learn to cope. However, there are a few steps that are critical to take as soon as possible (ideally, immediately after being diagnosed or in the early stages of the disease):
Get all of your financial and legal affairs in order.
- Take care of any living wills or trusts you may have.
- Create an advance directive for a health care document. Recording your wishes for health care providers and/ or loved ones will legally enforce them if you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself.
- Designate an agent who can make decisions for you in the late stages of Alzheimer’s through a durable power of attorney.
Develop a coping strategy.
Most often, the changes people endure in their abilities occur gradually, not right away. Be open to and accepting of any limitations that you face. Work with loved ones to figure out ways to address them in your day-to-day tasks. For example, if you start having trouble finding household objects, you may benefit from putting labels on your cabinets, shelves, and drawers. Also, daily exercise can be a great way to help you manage the added stress that comes along with a diagnosis of this nature.
Plan for future care.
- Hire or arrange for a loved one to be your full- or part-time caregiver, especially if you live alone. Even though it could be many years before Alzheimer’s progresses to this severity, be proactive by making arrangements ahead of time.
- If you live in a large home or a home with multiple levels, consider moving to a smaller, easier-to-maintain condo or townhome. Moving isn’t always necessary, as long as your home has been prepared for the situation at hand.
Keep living your life.
It may be difficult (especially at first) to comprehend continuing to participate in some of your favorite activities. But it’s important to keep in mind that life will go on, even if it changes. And there’s evidence which suggests that finding joy by doing the things you love can not only improve your mood, but possibly ease some of the symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s.
Taking immediate action may seem like a tall order, but getting these items out of the way early will allow you to make the most of your time with fewer worries about legal and financial details. After all, now is the time to enjoy your life by doing the things you love with the people who mean the most to you.
Jim is passionate about promoting senior health. Jim and his wife created ElderAction after becoming caregivers for their aging parents.