By Carla Adamic, The Reutlinger Community
We’ve all heard about Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), a condition that strips people of their memory and, eventually their life, that cannot be cured or slowed down. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in 2015, 5.1 million people over the age of 65 in the United States were living with AD and, of that number, 3.2 million were women.
What might surprise many is that according to the 2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report issued in March, only 45 percent of those diagnosed with AD, or their caregivers, “say they were told of their diagnosis by their doctor.” Doctors aren’t required to tell their patients of the diagnosis, although medical ethics would indicate otherwise.
It’s important to know what disease you have and for your caretaker to know, as soon as possible, because it facilitates informed response and planning. Being uninformed leads to fear, confusion, anxiety and depression, just to name a few side effects of not knowing why you are forgetting things, getting lost or confused.
Not that you won’t experience many of those emotions when you first learn you have AD, and throughout the course of your disease. But, knowing what is wrong in the early stages of AD means you will be able to take action to help yourself, your spouse or partner, children, relatives and friends prepare for changes in your behavior and health. This can lead to a more rewarding and less troubled future for everyone concerned.
Here are five important things to do, after you’ve been diagnosed:
- Learn about Alzheimer’s. The more you know, the better you can explain your disease to family members, friends and others. You will also know what to expect as AD progresses and will be able to plan accordingly.
- Tell your spouse or partner about your diagnosis, if you haven’t done so already. Together you can discuss your needs and theirs and discuss how you wish to be treated as your condition worsens. Have you been putting off a special trip or project? Maybe now is the time to travel to Asia or take the grandkids to Disney World, finish the book you’re writing or organize the family photos.
- Go over your finances and legal documents with your spouse or partner and make sure everything is in order. Consult an attorney to assist you in setting up a power of attorney document, help with estate planning and other financial and legal issues. Make sure your wishes are known and respected.
- Check out long-term care facilities in the area and find out what resources are available for people with AD that your caregiver can use, when needed. Find a near-by support group that you and your caregiver can join — either separately or together.
- Keep active as long as you can. If you and your spouse or partner play bridge or go dancing, keep doing it as long as you comfortably can. Consider adding a few less complex activities to your repertoire. That way if bridge becomes too complicated, you can switch to an easier game, like hearts, or take up hiking or walking to replace dancing.
There are many resources available for people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers, family and friends. The National Institute on Aging offers a guide “Caring for a Person With Alzheimer’s Disease,” with tips for caregivers on topics as diverse as how to make your home safe for a person with Alzheimer’s and how to find a full-time care facility. The site also offers a variety of information on the disease, research in progress and how to find help.
The Alzheimer’s Association addresses all facets of AD, from its symptoms and stages to information about on-line message boards and support groups for patients and caregivers. The important thing is to use the available information to make life with AD easier and more rewarding for both you and your caregiver.
The staff at the Reutlinger is available to help address your concerns and answer questions. Our resident-centered memory care residents have 24/7 oversight by licensed nurses, a full complement of activities including a renowned on-site art program, and a full-time social worker to ensure that every resident’s quality of life is all it can be.
We welcome your questions. Call (925)648-2800 or visit www.rcjl.org.