It hits you like a ton of bricks. "I am sorry, but your husband has Alzheimer's." You just learned your spouse has Alzheimer's. You have noticed for awhile that he was forgetful, or seemed confused with tasks he had done forever, like repairing the sink, but you never expected this.
It all changed when he disappeared after going to the store; He did not come home for hours, and you were so worried. Just as you were about to call the police, when an acquaintance from a couple streets over called because he was knocking on their door.
Understand you are not alone! According to the Alzheimer’s Association, every 66 seconds, someone develops this disease, and it affects over 5 million Americans every day. Unfortunately, Alzheimer's is a neurodegenerative disease, meaning there is no cure. This leads it to be the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. So here you are at the physicians office wondering what’s next?
COPING WITH CAREGIVING
One of the first realizations you may experience is that you now will take on the role of a caregiver. Depending on the stage of Alzheimer’s your loved one is experiencing, this can be more taxing than other times. Regardless, you are now a caregiver, but maybe you do not know how to be one. It is okay to take a minute to let the diagnosis process and prepare yourself for the future.
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is stressful. You have to make tough decisions and experience a roller coaster of emotion – experiencing love, anger, loneliness, hope and sadness – sometimes on a daily basis.
It's also important to establish routines and time for yourself to help keep yourself healthy. Because this is such a demanding responsibility, and you may have other obligations, like work, you need to schedule the time to take care of yourself. Help them by helping yourself. Set up weekly nights with your friends, continue spending time gardening or going to the gym. By maintaining these routines, you will be a much more successful caregiver.
FINDING RESOURCES FOR ALZHEIMER'S INFORMATION
It is important to educate yourself on the disease, on care options available and any questions you may have. A great place for information is the Alzheimer's Association's website ALZ.org. The Alzheimer’s Association is a huge advocate promoting education, medical research and help for caregivers. If you want to become an advocate for pushing advancements you can easily find your local chapter or search by state.
If you cannot locate information on what you are looking for on ALZ.org, try searching on the Alliance For Aging Research website. While this organization covers all topics related to aging, it provides comprehensive lists of various Alzheimer’s resources.
BUILDING YOUR SUPPORT NETWORK
You cannot do this alone. Having a loved one with Alzheimer's means you will have to ask for support from people on occasion. Whether this is friends, family or even professionals depends on your situation. While your spouse may not be ready to be placed in assisted living or memory care, most of these providers often offer respite care or day-to-day care. Both of these options are short-term care options available to you and your loved one. Need a break to run some errands? Have an appointment that requires overnight travel? Look into respite care to ensure your spouse is safe and happy while you are away.
Need more information on respite care or have questions about Alzheimer’s care? Visit our website to find your local Oaks Senior Living community that would be happy to speak with you about any questions you may have after receiving the diagnosis.