Alzheimer’s Diagnosis? First Things First

Your mom got the dreaded diagnosis! What do you do first? Start by contacting your local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association; ask for guidance and use their printed information. Locate a geriatric care manager, doctors specializing in dementia, adult day care services and respite care services. Eventually you will want to investigate memory care facilities in your area to know the availability and costs should it become necessary to move your parent. Start gathering the important documents and data of your parents to include: all legal documents, powers of attorney and health care directives; personal certificates, – birth, death, divorce; veteran’s papers; Social Security information; deeds and mortgage papers. Locate all financial information: banking, pension, 401(k), credit cards, insurance policies along with the names of the service professionals such as their banker, lawyer, estate planning attorney, financial advisor, insurance agent, doctors, and past employer documents. Also include the car title and keys. Knowing passwords is critical for the computer, cell phone, online and social media accounts.

During the early stages of dementia, try to collect and record long-term memories. Include favorite songs and music since music recognition is retained longer than data. Ask  your mom about her childhood, any pets she had, her early adult life, how she met your dad, what it was like when you were born and events that shaped her life. Do enjoyable things with your mom; she may not remember them but may still continue to enjoy walks, baking and anything that once brought her pleasure. Don’t forget your own needs. Look for support groups. Caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s is demanding, exhausting and eventually all-consuming. It can be a tremendous benefit to talk with others in the same situation.

Many families try to keep their loved one at home as long as possible. If that is your goal, make reasonable plans. Examine her living space. Remove throw rugs and tripping hazards. Install grab bars and handrails. Determine how to lock outer doors to prevent wandering. Minimize stair use. Then think about personnel. Is there someone to act as full-time caregiver? Who else in the family will help and in what ways? Will the caregiver be fairly compensated, especially if the burdens of care are uneven in the family? Recognize limitations. For everyone’s sanity, it may eventually be necessary to move your mom to a memory care facility. It is helpful to list decision-triggering conditions ahead of time. This can be guided by the doctor, representatives from the Alzheimer’s Association, a geriatric care manager or others with experience caring for dementia patients. Planning ahead will pay dividends in the care and consideration of a family that is dealing with Alzheimer’s disease. For additional information go to: https://www.nextavenue.org