When a senior parent is first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s the immediate reaction in the family may be relief. At last you have an answer for why your senior parent has been forgetting words, losing things, or not seeming like themselves. But that relief quickly gives way to confusion, fear, and uncertainty.
While it’s normal to need some time to process a series diagnosis like Alzheimer’s, time is important when you have a senior parent diagnosed with this disease. The clock is already ticking by the time you get the diagnosis. You and your senior parent need to do everything you can to try and slow down the progression.
The things that you should do immediately after your senior parent is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are:
Start Learning About Alzheimer’s
Knowledge is power. Start by learning as much as you can about Alzheimer’s disease. Read books, research online, and consult reputable sources like the Alzheimer’s Association or your parent’s healthcare provider. Understanding the disease’s stages, symptoms, and progression will help you plan and make informed decisions.
Build A Support System
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s can be emotionally and physically demanding. Reach out to family members, close friends, and support groups to create a network of people who can provide emotional support, respite care, and assistance when needed. You may want to start looking for support groups too. Finding an Alzheimer’s care provider is also a valuable resource.
Consult a Healthcare Professional
Schedule an appointment with your parent’s healthcare provider to discuss the diagnosis, treatment options, and the development of a care plan. Ensure that your parent’s overall health is assessed, and ask about any available medications or clinical trials that may help slow the progression of the disease. Make sure that you take notes at these appointments, or record them. There will be a lot of information coming at you and your senior parent quickly. Taking notes or recording the appointment will give you a chance to review the information later.
Start Legal and Financial Planning
Take care of legal and financial matters as soon as possible. This includes updating or creating a will, establishing powers of attorney (financial and healthcare), and considering long-term care insurance if it’s not already in place. Consult with an attorney who specializes in elder law for guidance.
Get a Safety Assessment Done
Assess your parent’s living situation for safety concerns. Alzheimer’s patients may become disoriented or forgetful, leading to potential accidents. Remove hazards, secure dangerous items, and consider adding locks or alarms on doors if wandering is a concern. You will probably need to do more safety assessments and make more changes as the disease progresses.
Create a Daily Routine
Establishing a consistent daily routine can help your parent feel more secure and reduce anxiety. Routine can include regular mealtimes, medication schedules, and structured activities.
Maintain Social Engagement
Encourage your parent to remain socially engaged. Social interactions can help slow cognitive decline and improve emotional well-being. Arrange visits with friends and family members, participate in support groups, or consider enrolling your parent in social programs designed for Alzheimer’s patients.
Start Memory and Cognitive Activities
Cognitive training exercises, such as puzzles, memory games, and brain-training apps, can help maintain cognitive function and stimulate the mind. Engage your parent in these activities to the best of their abilities.
Explore Alzheimer’s Care
Alzheimer’s care is designed to meet the unique needs of seniors with Alzheimer’s. Start talking to Alzheimer’s care providers and start Alzheimer’s care at home for your senior parent. The sooner you start care the better it will be for your senior parent in the long-run.
Take Care of Your Well-being
Caregiving can be emotionally and physically draining. Prioritize self-care to avoid caregiver burnout. Make time for activities you enjoy, seek support from friends and support groups, and consider professional counseling if needed.