What to do after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

Overland Park, Kansas – You just learned your parent has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.  At first you might be relieved to get an answer as to why he or she is so confused, and then the reality of the disease hits you.  How is the disease going to progress? What should I expect?  How will I take care of my parent?  Can he or she remain at home with in-home care, do I need a geriatric care manager to help me and the rest of the family with short term and long term planning or do I need to think about moving my parent to an assisted living or nursing home?  Do I need an elder law attorney to discuss legal issues? Questions and fear of the unknown can make a stressful situation even harder to handle.

Understanding the progression of the disease so you can determine the best care for your parent should be a priority (look for support at your local Alzheimer’s Association – Heart of America Chapter (913) 831-3888 or (800) 733-1981). The Alzheimer’s experience can be different for each person, although there are many common behaviors that are shared by those affected.  Typically, difficulty with remembering dates and times or new information is the first sign of Alzheimer’s disease. You parent might have gotten lost driving home from the grocery store where they have shopped for 20 years or they forget to take their medicine for days at a time.  As the disease progresses, you may see increased confusion, irritability, aggression, depression, sleeplessness, incontinence and long-term memory loss.

If possible, keeping your parent at home is often a good way for them to cope with the changes they are facing—the less change the better.  Assistance with daily living needs—such as laundry, meal preparation, medication reminders, light housekeeping and personal care – can be made easier for your parent and you by hiring a private pay home care agency.  A good agency will provide a caregiver or team of caregivers that have experience working with individuals who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. Having someone other than you as the primary caregiver will also allow you to maintain the important child/parent bond and not be the subject of your parent’s frustration or outbursts.  It’s important for you and your loved-one to participate together on activities and interactions that bring a sense of joy and celebration.  This will go a long way in adding to the quality of life and help your parent maintain a sense of self.