What you need to know to live your best life with Alzheimer’s

By Pamela J. Myers Program Director Alzheimer’s Association NW and Central Ohio

        Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, which leads to changes in memory, thinking and behavior. If you have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, you are not alone. Today, an estimated 50 million people worldwide are living with dementia, including more than 6 million Americans. Learning as much as you can is the first step toward taking control of your life. You can live well by empowering yourself with the right information and resources.
        Feelings after a diagnosis
        It’s normal to experience a range of emotions after receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Understanding your emotions will help you move forward and discover ways to live a positive and fulfilling life. Common feelings include anger, anxiety or fear. You may experience depression, isolation, or feel a sense of loss. You may even feel relief as your diagnosis validated your concerns and provided an explanation as to the way you were feeling.
        Although it can be difficult, taking care of your emotional needs can help you come to terms with your diagnosis and feelings. The following tips may be helpful:
        • Write down your thoughts in a journal.
        • Share your feelings openly and honestly with family members and friends.
        • Surround yourself with support.
        • Stay engaged by continuing to do activities you enjoy for as long as you’re able, or consider trying new ones.
        • It is OK to take time to feel sad, mourn and grieve. It is very important to talk to your doctor if you or others are concerned about your emotional well-being.
        Sharing your diagnosis
        As the disease progresses, you will need the support of those who know and understand you in order to cope with the challenges ahead. Some relationships may be tested when you reveal your diagnosis, but others may be strengthened. It’s normal to experience fear or discomfort. However, talking openly with those you trust is a powerful way to engage their support and educate them about the disease.
        Some individuals choose to share their diagnosis with only their closest family and friends, while others are comfortable sharing it with a broader group of people. Assess your personal comfort level to determine your approach. Negative reactions based on stigma or misconceptions about Alzheimer's may reflect a person's need for more time or education before he or she can respond to you in helpful ways. Allow your family and friends time to digest your news so everyone can move forward positively.
        Plan for your future
        Putting legal, financial and safety plans in place after receiving your Alzheimer’s diagnosis is extremely important. It may be difficult to look ahead to the future, but it’s critical to keep sight of planning and conversations that should take place while you’re in the early stage of the disease and can fully participate. Having future plans in place can also provide comfort and confidence to you and your family.
        Live your best life
        Consider these tips to help you live your best life:
        • Take care of your body. Try to eat well and stay active. Visit your doctor regularly and rest when you're tired.
        • Engage in mentally stimulating activities, such as taking a class or challenging yourself to try a new hobby or activity.
        • Don’t be afraid to connect with your feelings. Talking with friends or a counselor about your diagnosis can help you cope.
        • Explore your spiritual side. Focus on the pursuits that bring meaning to your life and help you experience peace.
        If you need further information on living your best life, contact Pam Myers at the Alzheimer’s Association  pjmyers@alz.org or call 567-302-3612 for support and resources.


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