An Alzheimer’s diagnosis is difficult to receive at any age, but an early-onset Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be particularly devastating. Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease brings with it challenges that those who develop Alzheimer’s late in life often don’t have to deal with, including:
- Feelings of guilt over placing additional pressure on your life partner
- Financial difficulties due to job loss
- Loss of intimacy with your life partner
- Trying to raise children still living at home.
Nevertheless, many people who are diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s go on to live very full lives. Experts suggest the best way to cope with your diagnosis is to:
- Implement a treatment plan
- Prepare for the future
- Seek support.
Coping with Early-onset Alzheimer’s: Adopting a Treatment Plan
Be diligent in following your treatment plan as prescribed by your doctor. Although no cure for early-onset dementia exists, medication can slow the advance of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, a healthy lifestyle that incorporates a balanced diet, physical exercise and intellectually stimulating activities can also help to slow the progression of the disease.
Coping with Early-onset Alzheimer’s: Planning for the Future
Making plans for the future is an important part of the coping process. Having goals and mapping out a plan to achieve them can give you purpose and stability. If you have a life partner and/or children, most of your goals will probably involve either providing for them or spending time with them.
The Alzheimer’s Association recommends that you meet with a financial advisor who can help you plan for the time when you are no longer able to be in the workforce. While you are still employed, your employer may be able to make accommodations for you that will allow you to remain at your job for as long as possible.
Because your condition affects everyone in your family, coping with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease is easier when you deal with it together. Talk to your loved ones about how they feel about your condition and make decisions as a family unit. Just as importantly, make memories together. Capture those memories on video, in photographs and in your journal so you can look back and remember them later.
Coping with Early-onset Alzheimer’s: Seeking Support
Doctors suggest that one of the best ways to deal with your condition is to find others who are coping with early-onset Alzheimer’s as well. Your local Alzheimer’s society or hospital will be able direct you to an Alzheimer’s support group in your community. It can be very helpful to talk to other people who understand what you’re going through. Support groups can also help your family members through the emotional struggle of your condition.
Alzheimer’s Association. (n.d.) Early-onset Alzheimer’s. Retrieved June 10, 2010, from http://www.alz.org/national/documents/brochure_earlyonset.pdf.
Mayo Clinic. (2009). Early-onset Alzheimer’s: When symptoms begin before 65. Retrieved June 9, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alzheimers/AZ00009.