Learning that your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease can be very difficult. The impact of the disease, learning about the stages and treatments, and helping to plan for the future are all daunting tasks that take a lot of time and effort. The primary focus tends to be on the patient; however, it is important for the family and caregivers of the patient to take care of themselves. It is not selfish or otherwise wrong to have feelings regarding the diagnosis. Further, it is healthy to have your own support system to help you cope with not only the diagnosis but the road ahead.
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Some common experiences of the family and caregivers of patients with Alzheimer’s disease include feelings of depression, worry, sleep disturbances, feelings of being burdened, financial strain – all of which are entirely normal. So what can you do to address and alleviate these feelings?
Plan – One of the seemingly easiest, but often most difficult ways to address some of the feelings you may experience is to plan for the future and progression of the disease. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurological condition that will render your loved one dependent upon others eventually. Taking the time to plan for the financial requirements of the necessary care is a key component of lessening the financial strain down the road. Establishing trusts, living wills, a caregiving team, and a chain of command among the caregiving team can all be helpful in planning for the future in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Develop a Support System – Alzheimer’s patients obviously need a strong support system and caregiving team, but so do their family members and caregivers! Express your feelings to other members of the caregiving team and remember to remain in contact with friends who can help provide some support throughout the process. Try not to take on all of the responsibilities and instead delegate duties and plan for when you or another caregiver are feeling overwhelmed. Also, make it a point to remain involved in the social activities that you were involved with before.
Join a Support Group – There are many Alzheimer’s support groups available for not only patients, but also for the family and caregivers of the patients. These support groups exist locally, some part of larger national/international organizations, as well as online. Your loved ones’ neurologist is likely to be able to provide some information on how to seek these groups out.
Counseling – Seeking professional counseling can help you to work through some of the emotions that you experience through the journey of dealing with Alzheimer’s disease. Counseling is never a sign of weakness and can actually provide a great strength to you and the rest of the family and caregiving team. Group counseling may also be an excellent option to involve more members of the team, or even the patient themselves.
For more information, to learn more about the studies being conducted at Palm Beach Neurological Center, or to schedule a consultation, call (888) 369-1010, or complete the contact us form on our website.
Cole, J. C., Ito, D., Chen, Y. J., Cheng, R., Bolognese, J., & Li-McLeod, J. (2014). Impact of Alzheimer's Disease on Caregiver Questionnaire: internal consistency, convergent validity, and test-retest reliability of a new measure for assessing caregiver burden. Health & Quality Of Life Outcomes, 12(1), 1-20. doi:10.1186/s12955-014-0114-3
561-694-1010 – Dr. Tuchman has maintained a private practice in Neurology in Palm Beach Gardens since 1983. His special areas of interest are memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkins