Coping When a Family Member is Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. Early stages of this progressive disease are marked by memory loss and confusion, while later stages find most individuals unable to interact with others and their environments.
Although the risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia increases with age, it is important to note that it is not a typical outcome of aging. While most diagnosed with the disease are 65 or older, it is possible to be diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s prior to 65.
Although Alzheimer’s has no cure, there are medications that can possibly improve the quality of life and slow the symptoms that interfere with quality of daily living.
If you, or someone you love, are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or you notice signs of dementia, it is important that you consult with your physician to receive an accurate diagnosis and create a treatment plan. You can call the Alzheimer’s Association® 24/7 hotline at 1-800-272-3900 for additional support and resources.
It is also important to research the benefits of Long term care insurance policy (LTC) to determine if this type of coverage would be helpful to you and your loved one. We value our partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association and support them in their efforts to find a cure.
Helping a loved one navigate Alzheimer’s
Once the initial shock of the diagnosis settles in, you will likely have many questions and be eager to put a plan in place to help your loved one to be as happy and comfortable as possible. It’s important to know what can you do to help:
- Consider creating a dementia care plan to help you better understand the stage of the Alzheimer’s and how you can best care for your loved one.
- Recognize that your family member may be frustrated, angry, embarrassed or in denial about the impacts of the disease. Try to be patient as they work their way through acceptance of their new lifestyle and abilities. Allow them to have as much independence and control as possible, understanding that safety must be prioritized.
- Develop routines and checklists that are easy to follow and remove any guesswork. Reduce stress or triggers that may upset your loved one.
- Seek out the support of others. Friends, family members, and healthcare professionals can ease the burden and help you manage the stresses of caring for your family member. There are many online message forums and in-person support groups that can offer targeted, expert advice from professionals and others who are also going through the same experience.
- Remember that you also need to take care of yourself. Don’t hesitate to reach out to others to get respite or assistance as needed.
- Recognize when your loved one may need more support to manage activities of daily living (ADL’s) than you are able to provide and accept that it may be time to explore long-term care. Try not to feel guilty or upset about this decision, as it is the best way to keep your loved one safe and ensure they will receive needed care.
- Consider working with a financial representative to help you plan for your family member’s short- and long-term care needs. Managing the day-to-day of caregiving can become even more overwhelming if you are navigating all the budgetary and financial decisions by yourself.
Covering all the bases
As your loved one becomes less able to care for themselves, you will need to help with many tasks they were able to do independently before the diagnosis.
Thinking ahead and planning for this shift in responsibility will help you to manage it over time rather than all at once. Here are some things to consider:
- Develop a plan for healthcare and legal decisions before the disease progresses.
- The Alzheimer’s Association provides free resources, such as the “Managing Money: A Caregiver’s Guide to Finances” to teach you about the costs of caregiving and how to avoid financial abuse and fraud.
- Put a foolproof plan in place to manage medications.
- Set up a system for buying and preparing food for your loved one. There are many services like Meals on Wheels and the Adults with Disabilities meal program that can help you.
- Prepare physically and emotionally for the eventual need to help your loved one with dressing, grooming and bathing. If you need to make modifications to the home to accommodate these tasks, contact a professional to help you.
Brain health is important for everyone
Researchers around the world are working on finding cures for Alzheimer’s and trying to determine if there are ways to stave off the disease. While much is still unknown, physicians agree that keeping your brain healthy is an important practice for everyone! Here are some tips for keeping yourself and your loved ones on track for many years to come:
- Keep your brain healthy by also prioritizing heart health. Exercise regularly and move often.
- Eat a healthy diet filled with fruits and vegetables.
- Drink plenty of water and aim for 8 hours of sleep each night.
- Keep social relationships strong and maintain connections with others.
- Protect yourself by wearing seatbelts, helmets and by making sure your home is “fall-proof”.
- Keep your brain busy with puzzles, hobbies and caring for grandchildren.
While an Alzheimer’s diagnosis can feel overwhelming and scary, you are not alone. The Alzheimer’s Association also offers ALZ Talks, virtual webinars that cover a variety of topics to help you navigate through the diagnosis.
Since 2003, CNO Financial Group and Bankers Life have helped raise more than $7 million for the Alzheimer’s Association through the Forget Me Not Days campaign and corporate donations.
Bankers Life here for you!
While no one wants to imagine themselves or a loved one getting a serious illness, it’s best to be prepared. Protecting your family’s future is as easy as talking to a Bankers Life agent and exploring your options. We can help put your mind at ease by answering your insurance coverage questions. Call us to get started (800) 621-3724.