Getting a life-changing diagnosis can be difficult, and truer words were never spoken than when it comes to being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s normal to feel a wide range of emotions with a diagnosis like this one. Remember, everyone’s journey to acceptance is different. Here are a few things to take note of if you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Allow Yourself to Feel What You Feel
It’s normal to experience grief, shock, or anger with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Know that your feelings are valid, and you should allow them to run their course. The path to acceptance lies in acknowledging your own truth. Some common emotions that people experience with this type of diagnosis are:
If any of your feelings become too difficult to handle on your own or you have an episode that lasts longer than a few weeks, you may be experiencing depression. Speak to your doctor about what you can do to keep yourself from falling into a depressive episode. There are many ways to treat depression, and your doctor can help you find the right one for you.
Many people find that the more they know, the better they feel about their diagnosis. While there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, there are still many different treatment options that can be used to help with symptoms of the disease. So speak up and ask your doctor questions.
In the beginning, you may be too shocked to absorb all of the information, so take notes or have a loved one take notes so you can look over all of the answers you got at a later date. Consider asking some of the following questions and adding any of your own personal questions to the list as well:
- How did you determine my diagnosis? How familiar are you with Alzheimer’s disease?
- Are you the doctor who will be managing my care going forward?
- If I need hospitalization for any reason, will you be providing my care in that setting?
- How will the disease progress? What symptoms can I expect earliest?
- What treatment options are available?
- Which medications work best for which symptoms?
- Are there any clinical trials currently available? Can I read about them somewhere?
- Where is the best place to find published information on Alzheimer’s disease that I can understand?
- What services are available to help me live with this disease as long as possible?
Sharing Your Diagnosis with Loved Ones
This is not a disease you can go alone; you will need loved ones supporting you and perhaps even helping to care for you. So although it may be difficult and tempting to try to hide your diagnosis, it’s best to be honest with those who are closest to you as early as possible. It’s going to be an uncomfortable discussion, so it’s completely normal to fear that discomfort, but the sooner you and your loved ones work together to get educated about this disease, the sooner you can start feeling more empowered.
Deciding who you tell can be difficult as well. Consider who the people you feel closest to are. Who do you see often and trust the most? Who are your closest family members? You can tell each person separately or make a list of everyone you are close to and plan a meeting where you can all discuss the diagnosis together.
Remember that how you share your diagnosis is entirely up to what makes you the most comfortable. Maybe you want to write all of your thoughts down and read them aloud. Maybe you want to tell one person who is very close to you and then have them lead the discussion. Don’t stress too much about what people’s reactions are going to be. There will be those who cannot handle it at the moment, and that is ok. Let the people who are prepared to help step forward and help.