A diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease has an immediate impact on the individual, family, and friends. Getting informed about the disease is the best way to manage early misconceptions and fears, and to begin to deal with the short- and long-term realities of the disease.
No family is unaffected by a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. Whether it's a worst fear realized, or a nagging suspicion confirmed, the diagnosis will elicit a range of emotions in everyone affected. And though the immediate impulse will be to address the needs and concerns of the person with the disease, those involved in the care of their loved one will need to focus on preparing for their new role as caregivers, and begin to plan for the inevitable changes to come.
Aside from the person affected, the spouse or partner of a person receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease is probably dealt the hardest blow. It is a terrible shock to learn that the person with whom you have chosen to spend your life has been diagnosed with a progressive, terminal disease for which there is no known cure.
Added to this is the realization that this person is about to undergo changes caused by the disease that will claim the personality you love, and to a point where you are no longer even recognized. And finally, there is the responsibility of caregiving, which is bound to become increasingly challenging as the disease progresses.
What can be done to overcome these challenges? Quite simply, you need to live in the moment with your spouse or partner, and take as much pleasure as possible from the daily activities you share and the care you give. This will require knowledge and planning, and equal amounts of patience and flexibility. But it can and has been done, by caregivers just like you. To find out how, explore the Living, Caring, and Sharing areas of this website.
Siblings and children
Different families handle the challenges of Alzheimer's disease in their own unique ways. And until Alzheimer's affects your family, you will not know what impact it will have on your everyday life. The important thing with family is to keep everyone up to date on the loved one's condition, and to keep lines of communication open enough to allow for requests and offers of assistance and support. With everyone helping out when they can, the loved one and his principal caregiver will do better than if they try to cope alone. Staying informed, compassionate, and engaged in care will ultimately make the disease and its management a more natural, human experience for everyone.
It is a natural urge to keep troubling news to ourselves, but in the case of Alzheimer's disease, telling anyone in contact with the person with the disease is essential - as soon as the symptoms become noticeable. Eventually, people will notice the changes occurring because of the disease, and it is in everyone's best interest to know. Being honest and realistic about the condition with friends will allow them to interact better with your loved one, and to help out in their own unique ways.
Alzheimer's Resource Centre
Managing depression in the person with Alzheimer's disease
with Dr. Howard Chertkow, Bloomfield Centre for Research in Aging