Studies suggest that 15-20% of individuals 65 years or older may have mild cognitive impairment, with half of those individuals progressing further into a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia within 5 years. This condition is commonly characterized by having memory problems, inability to multitask, and/or stay focused on what’s important. Although we all may be forgetful on occasion, these lapses in memory gradually progress over time and the changes are noticeable by family and friends, which can eventually start to interfere with everyday life.
In the early stages of Alzheimer’s most individuals still function independently; taking part in social activities, working, driving, etc., but in time, that independence could decrease. Alzheimer’s disease can take a devastating toll, not only on those with the disease, but also on entire families. Here are some things to keep in mind for those recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s as well as those experiencing the diagnosis of a loved one.
Here are some tips for those recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease:
Similarly, family members can also take actions when they are caring for their loved one with Alzheimer’s so here are some things to remember if your loved one was recently diagnosed.
- Educate yourself about the disease. Learning as much as you can about the progression can help you understand what to expect.
- Be realistic in your expectations for yourself and your loved ones. Set realistic goals and learn to expect the unexpected. Don’t set yourself up for failure by promising too much and don’t expect too much from your loved one.
- Develop predictable routines and schedules. As the disease progresses it is more important to have set routines and schedules which will eliminate confusion and frustration for your love one.
- Find things they can do. Spending time on familiar tasks can make your loved one feel happy and productive.
- Do not argue with your loved one. Try to learn the best way to communicate with each other so there is no arguing. Adding more stress to this already stressful situation will cause problems for everyone.
- Make sure your loved one is staying nutritious. Increasing the amount of vegetables and decreasing refined sugars in your diet can help manage behavioral issues.
- Give them independence when possible. As much as you may want to, you don’t have to do everything for your loved one. It is important they continue to do things on their own if they still can.
- Have fun. This diagnosis isn’t a death sentence, many people go on to live 20 years after diagnosis so don’t forget to still enjoy life and have as much fun as possible.
- Incorporate daily exercise in your routines. Focus on the health and mind for both of you.
- Hold on to the memories. Your loved one is more than just this disease or diagnosis. Hold on to who they are and don’t let the diagnosis get in the way of those memories and their personality.
As life changing of a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s can be for both the diagnosed individual and those closest to them, it’s important to remember you are not alone. Alzheimer’s effects approximately 5 million Americans and currently there is no cure, but with continued research there is hope for solutions.
If you or a loved one are interested in participating in a clinical trial related to mild cognitive impairment or early Alzheimer’s learn more here.