Since it is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness month, we developed a three-part series to increase awareness. If you missed the first post within this series, BrainTest® Awareness Series, Part 1 — Know the Warning Signs, you may access it here.
The second portion of the series is intended to support individuals like yourself, who have been recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. We understand that an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is frightening. However, it is important to understand that you are not alone.
There is immense support available for you and your family. Although scientists have not yet discovered a cure, you can still actively intervene, as you increase your quality of life.
I Was Recently Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s — Now What?
As you reflect on your recent diagnosis, it is normal to feel a range of emotions. Whether you are sad or angry, it is important that you speak to those closest to you. You do not need to face this disease alone. Those who care about you want to actively help, so do not shut them out.
Once you have discussed your condition with your loved ones, it is important that you consider the steps below. Although this diagnosis is challenging to accept, the sooner you begin to plan for the future, the better. For those living in the early stages of this disease, there are many therapeutic options to make your life more comfortable.
An Alzheimer’s Diagnosis Is Life-Changing, but You Can Intervene
It is well-understood that Alzheimer’s cannot be cured at this time. Without fully understanding what causes this disease, it has been challenging for researchers to come up with effective treatment options which significantly alter a patient’s prognosis. With that being said, based on evolving technology and research, there are options for those who seek an early diagnosis.
That is why we suggest the BrainTest® app as soon as there are concerns surrounding one’s level of cognitive thinking. By receiving a timely diagnosis, you will be able to obtain greater support and access to therapeutic treatment options. In many cases, these options only work (or work significantly better) when applied early on.
There are drugs currently available that treat symptoms. These medications are able to support patients with mild to severe Alzheimer’s. However, there are also many non-pharmacological interventions that are believed to enhance cognitive function, delay the need for institutionalization, improve quality of life, and decrease caregiver strain.
Steps to take
At this point, you must begin to plan ahead and continue to learn about your disease. Alzheimer’s is incredibly complex and can have unique effects on individual patients. This is particularly true if you are living with one or more diseases (for example, Alzheimer’s and diabetes).
The following steps are intended to guide and support both you and your caregiver(s).
Step one: Seek an expert opinion
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Once your physician tells you that you are suffering from Alzheimer’s, it is important that you request a referral. By seeing a neurologist, you will gain greater insight. This is because specialists dedicate their lives to neurological conditions and will be aware of the most recent research developments.
Before you go to your appointment, make a list of questions that you would like to ask. After all, you are a unique individual with unique concerns. Ask a loved one to come to the appointment with you so that they also have a better grasp of your current condition.
Also, many types of dementia can look the same initially. It is not uncommon for someone to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when they are actually suffering from Lewy Body dementia. This is why a second opinion is highly recommended. The more information you receive, the better.
Step two: Start the planning process
Although this step can be overwhelming, it is very important. Complete all financial and legal planning as soon as possible. Some of the core areas of interest include your will, the development of a late-stage care plan, and a Healthcare Power of Attorney.
By speaking about your wishes, this will help guide your family in case of an unexpected situation. Initially, you will want to hold a family meeting so that everyone can discuss how they are feeling before addressing future plans.
You can also begin to make changes to your home and regular routine. To begin, make your living space as safe, comfortable, and enjoyable as possible. There is life after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. You can still share special moments with those you love and remain involved in activities you enjoy.
Step three: Take care of yourself
Throughout the research, scientists have discovered certain variables that may help improve the prognosis of Alzheimer’s. While speaking to your neurologist, discuss the medications that are currently available. You should bring a list of any current medication you are taking so that the specialist can better understand any restrictions.
You can read about the available drug treatments here.
If you are someone who suffers from a condition such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure, it is important that you consider your current lifestyle choices. Dietary habits can be challenging to break. However, studies have shown that changes in diet and exercise can slow mental decline in some patients.
Researchers also suggest an increased intake of B-vitamins. These vitamins control homocysteine, which is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s and heart disease. Increase your intake of folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12.
It is also important that you remain active — both mentally and physically. Whether you enjoy gardening or walking through the park, make physical activity a priority. Crossword puzzles and other mentally stimulating games have also been shown to benefit patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s.
Join the conversation
You can also join the conversation, discussing your concerns with other Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. This U.S. News article highlights life after a diagnosis, focusing on four people who have Alzheimer’s. Just because you have this disease does not mean that you need to feel isolated or alone. There are many patients who actively speak out and support others. This CNN article is also quite inspiring, as they share Sandy Halperin’s story.
Perhaps the most important thing you should remember is that your disease does not define you. Continue learning and actively supporting your health in order to maintain the highest quality of life possible. If you would like some more information, please refer to the following:
- Music Therapy for Dementia Patients — Can You Unlock Memories?
- Instead of Waiting for a Miracle Alzheimer’s Drug, Address Your Lifestyle Today
- Green Vegetables Help Keep Elderly Brains ‘Younger’