The first few weeks and months after receiving an Alzheimer’s diagnosis are some of the most challenging. During this time, you are learning to come to terms with the illness. Some of the most common initial reactions to living with Alzheimer’s include:
- Feelings of guilt (that you will become a burden to your loved ones)
These emotions are perfectly normal and may never completely disappear. At some point, however, coping with Alzheimer’s involves accepting the reality of your situation and making steps towards living as full and healthy a life as possible.
Living with Alzheimer’s: Education and Support
Talk to your doctor, your local Alzheimer’s society and anyone else who can help educate you on the subject of Alzheimer’s disease. Coping with Alzheimer’s is easier if you know what to expect at each stage of the disease. Early-stage Alzheimer’s support groups are excellent resources for practical advice on living with Alzheimer’s. A support group can give you the support and encouragement you need to get through the difficult days. Support groups also exist for family members of Alzheimer’s sufferers. Talk to your local hospital or Alzheimer’s society about support groups in your area.
Living with Alzheimer’s: Healthy Living
Living a healthy lifestyle may help to delay the progression of Alzheimer’s symptoms. A healthy lifestyle includes:
- Adequate rest
- A well-balanced diet
- Intellectually stimulating activities (especially those that focus on learning and memory)
- Regular exercise
- Social activities
- Taking prescribed medications.
Research shows that physical, mental and social activities appear to have a protective effect on the brain.
Living with Alzheimer’s: Keeping a Positive Attitude
The Alzheimer Society of Canada asked a number of individuals living with Alzheimer’s to offer their advice on coping with the disease. This is what they said:
- Ask someone to help
- Avoid overstimulation
- Do one thing at a time
- Follow routines
- If you forget something, don’t dwell on it
- If you are having problems with one activity, try something else
- Stay away from large crowds
- Set the timer when using the stove or oven
- Use a dispenser for pills
- Write things down.
Although living with Alzheimer’s limits your independence in some areas, you can maintain a positive attitude by:
- Focusing on the things you can do
- Savoring time spent with family and friends
- Spending time on enjoyable activities that provide meaning and fulfillment in your life.
Living with Alzheimer’s: Planning for the Future
Now is the time to make important decisions about your future and your family’s future. For example, you will need to decide what type of Alzheimer’s care you would like to receive when you can no longer care for yourself (i.e. a residential group home verse assisted-living Alzheimer’s care). You will need to make everything legal and binding to ensure your wishes are carried out when you can no longer make such decisions on your own.
Alzheimer Society of Canada. (n.d.) Living with Alzheimer’s. Retrieved June 22, 2010, from http://www.alzheimer.ca/english/haveAD/livingwith-intro.htm.
Friedland, R. P. et al. (17 February 2000). Patients with Alzheimer’s disease have reduced activities in midlife compared with healthy control-group members. Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 98(6), 3440-3445. doi:10.1073/pnas.061002998.
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2009). Lifestyle and home remedies. Retrieved June 23, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alzheimers-disease/DS00161/DSECTION=lifestyle-and-home-remedies.
U.S. National Institutes of Health â€“ National Institute on Aging. (n.d.) What happens next? Retrieved June 22, 2010, from http://www.nia.nih.gov/Alzheimers/Publications/WhatHappensNext.htm.