A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can be overwhelming not only for the person receiving it, but their family as well. Whether anticipated or not, the diagnosis can come as a shock. It may be hard to know how to respond or where to turn.
The emotional impact of an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis
One of the biggest impacts is emotional. Reactions may range from despair to denial, fear to anger, resentment to depression, or a mixture of feelings. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, coming to terms with these emotions is an important step in accepting the diagnosis, moving forward, and discovering new ways to live a positive and fulfilling life.
There are also a number of important practical actions to take in response to a new Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis. First among them is learning about the disease. Here are a few good educational resources:
- Alzheimer’s Association
- Alzheimer’s and related Dementias Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center
- Alzheimer’s Foundation of America
- Educational programs offered by local hospitals or community centers
The National Institute on Aging offers a checklist of practical steps to take after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. The list includes things like getting regular medical care, finding local services and support, and doing some legal, financial and long-term planning.
Download our free guide, Just the Facts: A Guide to Memory Care
The goal is to maintain an active lifestyle for as long as possible. However, as the disease progresses, a person living with dementia will need to rely more and more on the support of others. Families often play a big role. But at a certain point, it becomes difficult for a family to continue supporting someone with Alzheimer’s disease at home, even with home care services.
That’s when memory care at a senior living community can fill the gap.
What memory care is
Memory care is for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia who may not be safe living at home because they pose a risk to themselves or others. Memory care floors often have secure access, which controls the risk of residents – who may be disoriented – leaving the property and getting lost. There’s usually a higher level of support from staff on these floors as well. Some senior living communities have special expertise in providing memory care.
Good memory care has staff who are specially trained to support residents who may be experiencing one or more of the following dementia-related issues:
- Trouble finding words
- Increased frustration
- Uncharacteristic behaviors (possibly including emotional outbursts)
- Increasing disorientation to time, place, and people
- Difficulty with spatial perception (e.g. may start having trouble figuring out how to put on certain items of clothing)
- Disrupted sleeping and eating patterns
- Social withdrawal or depression
- Exit-seeking behavior
Because people with dementia at this stage often have a hard time articulating their needs, it’s up to staff to figure out what’s at the root of their struggles. They do this by spending time getting to know each resident and observing them closely.
This level of individualized attention allows memory care staff to tailor their approach to each resident’s specific needs. They focus on activities that each resident still enjoys and provide support so the experience is failure-free. If a resident becomes frustrated, staff are able to calm and redirect them based on an understanding of their unique emotional triggers.
Even as someone’s dementia progresses, good memory care programs will continue to give them a sense of purpose and belonging, of being valued and loved as a person.
Planning for memory care
Memory care may not be needed until well after an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis is initially made – except perhaps in situations where someone isn’t diagnosed until fairly late in the disease process.
However, it’s wise to explore the availability of memory care before it’s actually needed. Planning ahead like this may allow a person who is still in the relatively early stages of Alzheimer’s disease to decide for themselves where they’d like to receive care in the future.
At Sinceri, we specialize in memory care. Download our free guide to memory care or to senior living options. Or contact us to better understand where memory care might fit in your long-term plans after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.