What to Do if You’re Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease is a life-changing illness. So if you, or a loved one, have been recently diagnosed, you’re probably wondering what to do next. Here are some idea that can help move you in the right direction.

Get information. Knowing what you’re up against can go a long way toward helping you manage your disease. The Alzheimer’s Association’s Heart of America Chapter is a good place to find accurate information you can use to read up on Alzheimer’s.

Get regular medical care. See your doctor regularly, and ask for a referral to a memory clinic (there are clinics in Kansas City and in Overland Park).

Gather support. Take note of the people you already have in your life who will be willing to help as your disease progresses. If you’re not sure, ask. Support groups can also be helpful, as many people find comfort in talking to others who can relate to what they’re going through. Fortunately, there are lots of Alzheimer’s support groups in the Kansas City area. Also, you’ll want to develop a relationship with a home health agency that can help you later with things like personal care (e.g., bathing), meal preparation, house cleaning, transportation, and more.

Update your living will. If you don’t have a living will, the time to sign one is now. It will let healthcare workers know what type of medical care you want (or don’t want) in the event you should become unable to make decisions for yourself. You’ll also want to sign a healthcare power of attorney, which will allow you to choose someone now to make healthcare decisions for you if you become unable. Your doctor should be able to help you obtain the necessary paperwork for both documents.

Do some financial planning. A financial power of attorney is also a good idea. It’s used to assign someone to handle your finances if you become unable. You may also want to go ahead and update your will. And you’ll want to consider ways to cover your healthcare costs.

Think about safety. Have a home care agency that specializes in Alzheimer’s conduct a safety check on your home. And read the National Institute on Aging’s home safety guide for people with Alzheimer’s.

Stay healthy. A healthy diet has been shown to improve brain health; and scientists believe aerobic exercise may reverse Alzheimer’s symptoms.

Adjust your work hours. If you’re beginning to have trouble doing your job, see if you can reduce your work hours or switch to a position that isn’t so demanding. You might also want to ask your human resources department about family medical leave or disability benefits. And check with your local Social Security office about applying for Social Security Disability.

Consider a clinical trial. The University of Kansas Alzheimer’s Disease Center is currently enrolling people in research studies with the hope of finding a cure for Alzheimer’s. These clinical trials may offer treatment methods that are not yet available to others.

Keep having fun. Continue to do the things you enjoy for as long as you’re able.

Although Alzheimer’s disease will certainly change your life, a little preparation will help things go more smoothly.