Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of a group of related illnesses categorised as ‘dementia’. It’s basically a degenerative condition that affects the brain’s functions and reduces them over time. As we all get older many of us will experience bouts of forgetfulness and it’s important not to overreact and start feeling that there is anything seriously wrong with your mind if you tend to suffer from memory loss occasionally. That’s normal for all of us.
Usually, a dementia related illness can take anything from 6 months and upwards to become apparent and it’s often not even the sufferer who would notice it first but our partner and close family who might start to notice changes, subtle at first, in the way we talk, think or act.
Usually a diagnosis is made by our GP carrying out a number of verbal tests to determine whether our memory and mental abilities are declining and they will repeat the same tests a few months later to see if there has been any change. If you do get a positive diagnosis for Alzheimer’s, it’s bound to come as a complete shock, not only to yourself but it will affect the whole family.
Because of its nature, Alzheimer’s is irreversible but the one bright light is that you’ll have sufficient time to put your affairs in order and for you and your family to make the most of the time you have left together before your condition worsens.
Talking Things Through
It’s crucial that you and your family are able to talk to each other and support each other at this very difficult time. Although there will come a time when you’ll need to rely totally on others’ help, in the early stages you’ll have time to make your own choices for as long as you can so it’s important that your family help to reinforce your confidence and self-esteem and that you maintain a positive attitude and give them emotional strength too.
Getting Your Affairs Sorted
For some Alzheimer’s sufferers in the early stages of their illness, they find that having to attend to financial matters and getting their house in order can be quite beneficial in that it keeps them occupied and their minds off their illness. Things like mortgages, insurance policies, loan agreements and your will have to be looked at carefully and you should go through all of this with your partner and seek advice from a solicitor if necessary.
Whilst work may still help you to feel in control of the situation, it will undoubtedly become more stressful as your illness progresses so whilst your employer might be very sympathetic and allow you to work less hours and/or perform a less stressful role, it’s really only a matter of time before you’ll have to give up working so it’s important to keep that in mind and sort out things like pensions and any other entitlements that are due to you.
The pressure, not only on yourself but on your entire family, is bound to grow as your illness advances, so in its early stages, you should all find out about what kind of support you can all expect to receive from Social Services and to have that all in place for the time when you need it.
Keep on top of your general health. Alzheimer’s doesn’t mean that you should be feeling unwell so visit your GP if you’re experiencing any other health issues which are causing you to feel poorly. Eat a healthy, balanced diet and still take regular exercise while you can.
If you drive, you need to make plans on giving up, if you haven’t done so already and as soon as you have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, you must inform the DVLA. Importantly, if you do intend to carry on driving for a short period after your diagnosis, you should check with your insurance company to make sure you’re still covered.
Life will never be the same again once you’re diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and, unfortunately, there is sadly no cure as yet. It is however, important that you try to stay as strong and as positive as you can not only for your family but a positive outlook may at least prolong the time when you’re no longer able to cope on your own and you’ll be able to leave behind truly special loving memories for all those who know you. You may take pleasure in discovering new hobbies and interests which might have replaced some that would be too stressful for you now. You might take the opportunity to see friends and family whom you might not have seen for ages and take simple pleasures in things that you may have taken for granted previously – a beautiful sunset, sitting in the park, taking the dog for a walk.
The basic advice being that you should focus all of your energy and attention on those things which you can still take part in and experience as well as spending quality time with loved ones rather than worry about the future.