Ten Steps You Must Take After An Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

Receiving an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis can be overwhelming and emotional, leaving you wondering what to do next. Even as you ponder what to expect in the future, you must take some important steps now to ensure you and your loved one access the best care and support available.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss ten essential steps to take after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. These steps will provide you with a roadmap of what to do and how to prepare for the challenges ahead. By following these steps, you can assure the best possible results for yourself and your loved ones as you navigate a difficult diagnosis.

Step 1 – Learn About Brain Disorders
Step 2 – Build a Support System|
Step 3 – Seek the Care of Specialists
Step 4 – Create a Care Plan
Step 5 – Stay Active and Engaged
Step 6 – Prepare Documents
Step 7 – Evaluate Home Safety
Step 8 – Join a Support Group
Step 9 – Start on the Dementia Diet
Step 10 – Ask a lot of Questions

Follow these 10 steps to help individuals with Alzheimer’s disease continue to experience joy and fulfillment while effectively managing memory loss, cognitive decline, and other symptoms.

1. Learn About Brain Disorders

The first step after receiving an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis is to learn as much as possible about progressive brain disease. Unlike other chronic health conditions, Alzheimer’s disease can worsen over time, creating unexpected symptoms and behaviors. It’s immensely helpful to know what to expect as the disease progresses as well as the various treatments, medications, and care options available.

At the end of the day, knowledge is the best treatment to reduce anxiety and uncertainty, and the best way to make sure you will make the most informed decisions about your future care.

Learn more about brain disorders like Alzheimer’s from the National Institute on Aging.

2. Build a Support System

One of the most important steps to take following an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is to start building a support system. It’s essential to have people close to you who can provide emotional support throughout your journey. This may include family members, friends, private caregivers or senior care communities.

Family and friends are often the first to help with daily tasks such as shopping, cooking, cleaning, and paying bills. Family caregivers can also provide back-up support as your needs evolve and grow.

Caregivers are trained professionals who provide specialized care and support either in the home or in a senior living community. The caregivers who work in a memory care community are specifically trained in dementia care and tailor care to the individual and their symptoms rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. In a memory care community, personalized care, also called “person-directed care,” is commonly regarded as the best form of treatment for progressive brain disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

At Serenades Memory Care, for example, the GEMS® State Model of care approach is used by dementia-certified caregivers to inform the level of support needed to care for those living with Alzheimer’s disease. Treating the person rather than the disease has been proven to improve quality of life for those living with memory loss and cognitive impairment.

3. Seek the Care of Specialists

Not all doctors who treat Alzheimer’s disease need special certifications or training. Primary care physicians, for example, may diagnose and manage dementia and only seek the help of specialists as needed.

As a progressive and complex condition with an array of treatment options, Alzheimer’s disease patients are often best served by a team of professionals, including geriatricians, neurologists, psychiatrists, nutritionists, and others. In addition to specialists, there are a variety of support services and resources available to individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. Working with a medical group or practice who is knowledgeable about the disease can greatly improve continuity of care and outcomes.

Sometimes it’s difficult to determine exactly which specialist is an Alzheimer’s and dementia care expert given the wide range of clinicians that treat older adults, so asking your primary care doctor for referrals can help you find the right specialists. In general, a geriatrician, neurologist or geriatric psychiatrist who treats cognitive disorders is the most qualified to manage Alzheimer’s disease in older adults.

“The weeks and months following an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis is a stressful time for families, but it’s also the optimal time to assemble a team and build a care plan for someone recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease,” said Venkatesh Nagalapadi, MD, president of geriatric medicine at CFP Physicians Group in Casselberry, Florida.

“Most of our patients with Alzheimer’s disease prefer to stay independent for as long as possible. Applying the principles of geriatric medicine can prolong independence, delay the need for skilled nursing and prevent hospitalization in the later stages of the disease.”

4. Create a Care Plan

Creating a care plan is essential following an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. This involves development of a personalized plan that outlines an individual’s needs related to care, treatment and support for activities of living. The care plan should consider the individual’s abilities, symptoms and behaviors. It should also be updated frequently as the disease progresses over time.

Ideally, a care plan will be reviewed monthly with your doctor, medical team, or care providers since needs will evolve based on the progressive nature of brain disease. It’s also critically important to inform care providers about any changes in your condition.

Medicare may cover some or all of the care planning services required for people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, including the assessment of care directives and needs. As part of a comprehensive care plan, many families also choose to list the resources, safety and support services that will be required such as transportation and meal delivery services.

5. Stay Active

If you or your loved one have been recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, you may worry about losing autonomy. One way to prolong independence when you are living with Alzheimer’s disease is to engage in activities that are meaningful and purposeful but are not so difficult that it causes frustration.

Activities that promote independence are important to those living with Alzheimer’s disease because it helps them maintain a sense of dignity and self-esteem. Alzheimer’s disease can cause a gradual loss of cognitive function, but it doesn’t have to lead to a complete loss of independence. By staying active and engaged, individuals can maintain a higher quality of life and sense of autonomy. This, in turn, helps prevent restlessness, depression and anxiety, and improve quality of life.

Memory care communities like Serenades Memory Care at Longwood incorporate life enrichment activities with an emphasis on sensory stimulation, cognitive therapies, physical and occupational therapies, and exercise. Social engagement is also a focus to reduce anxiety and improve mood.

Check out these Alzheimer’s disease and dementia activities you can do at home.

6. Prepare Documents

After receiving an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, individuals and their families should start planning for the future by gathering important papers. This may include documents related to legal and financial matters. For example, while making plans for future care, many families assign a power of attorney, assure legal documents such as a will or trust are up to date, and formally document end-of-life decisions. Many families also consult with an attorney or a financial advisor who can advise on these important matters.

The National Institute on Aging provides detailed resources and recommendations related to legal and financial planning for people with dementia, including how to find help with legal and financial planning if you cannot afford an attorney.

7. Evaluate Home Safety

An unavoidable fact of Alzheimer’s disease is its progressive nature, meaning those affected gradually become challenged by activities of daily living. In time, symptoms of confusion and memory loss can make even the most ordinary tasks seem overwhelming, creating unsafe conditions at home and a frightening situation for families.

The home environment has a significant impact on the safety and well-being of those living with Alzheimer’s disease. As the disease progresses, the risk of falls and injuries in the home may increase. Also, people with Alzheimer’s disease may experience pain, but not be able to express it verbally, so they wander to find relief.

Wandering is a common symptom of Alzheimer’s disease and overstimulating environments can create anxiety and the urge to “get away.”  Wandering can be safe in a secure environment, but when someone with memory impairment gets lost, the risk of injury can be high, particularly in the Florida heat. Dementia care experts recommend families assess the home environment for safety concerns and modify it as needed to permit safe wandering.

No matter how many changes you make, there may come a time when it is no longer safe to stay in the home. Memory care communities like Serenades are specially designed for safety and wellness and incorporate purpose-built features that promote independence and dignity in a safe and supportive environment that feels like home.

Consider requesting a free home safety and wellness assessment from Serenades Memory Care to evaluate your home environment and make recommendations for care and services.

8. Join a Support Group

Receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can be emotional and overwhelming to both the person receiving a diagnosis and their loved ones. It’s important to take care of your emotional well-being and seek support in the early stages of a diagnosis.

There are many Alzheimer’s resources available in Florida, including support groups and counseling services. Support groups offer an opportunity to share experiences, connect with others who are going through similar challenges, and obtain valuable information and advice. They are offered at local community centers, churches, or Alzheimer’s organizations throughout Florida. A good starting place is the Alzheimer’s Association of Central Florida.

If you are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, you may feel isolated or overextended. Please take time to learn the 7 ways to prevent caregiver burnout before caregiving impacts your own health and wellness.

9. Start on the Dementia Diet

Studies have shown diet and nutrition can protect the brain from chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, which are believed to play a role in Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, people who have high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease are more likely to develop dementias of all types.

Within the past few years, research has linked the nutrients in food to cognitive performance, further illustrating the connection between diet and dementia. Other studies have shown how certain foods may even slow the progression of disease by providing protection against the harmful proteins that build up in the brain.

Recognizing the importance of diet and nutrition is a key strategy in the management of Alzheimer’s disease. Starting on the dementia diet can improve quality of life and prevent dangerous weight loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

10. Ask a lot of Questions

As Alzheimer’s progresses over time, providing care at home may become too complex. As you consider your options, it is always a good idea to visit at least two or three memory care communities before you decide on the type of care you need.

Selecting a senior care community can be an emotional decision, so you’ll want to make sure you are comfortable with the environment and competency of the care staff. As you tour your top three memory care assisted living communities in Florida, be sure to ask the staff a lot of questions related to training, care, safety technology, activities, and dining programs. Each of these service areas will significantly impact the quality of life of your loved on with Alzheimer’s disease.

Learn about the top five questions you must ask a memory care community to feel confident in your final choice.

After an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis, When To Seek Memory Care Support?

Receiving an Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be overwhelming, but knowing the steps to take can provide some peace of mind and reassurance that you and your loved one’s needs will be met. Building a support system, creating a care plan, seeking specialists, staying active, joining a support group, addressing safety concerns, and asking the right questions—each of these steps make a difference in quality of life.

Together, with the right support and care, individuals with Alzheimer’s disease can continue to live meaningful and fulfilling lives while maintaining dignity and a sense of self.

Take this quiz to find out if you or your loved ones qualify for memory care assisted living and schedule a visit to a community near you.

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Visit Serenades and find out how a person-centered approach to care has allowed us to continually raise the standard in memory care assisted living.