Coping With And Treating Alzheimer’s

Tuesday, July 19, 2011
By Mr. Noah Kaminer, Administrator

If after consulting with a doctor and undergoing tests, you or your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, you will be dealing with a host of emotions. You may be grieving; you may feel scared, angry, lost and completely overwhelmed. These are all quite common and very normal.

The first thing you should do is give yourself time to adjust to this diagnosis. A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is life-changing for both diagnosed individuals and those close to them. It will take some time to accept it and adjust to it. The most important thing you can do to cope after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is to reach out for help and support. The more you reach out to others and get support, the more you will be able to cope with this disease. There are many national organizations that specialize in Alzheimer’s support and can provide physician referrals, care giving options, names of social workers, therapists, and long term care facilities within your geographic location. These organizations are there to support the Alzheimer’s patient as well as their caregiver.

Next, you should learn as much as you can about the disease. Read what you can about the stages of Alzheimer’s to get a sense of the kinds of behaviors that are most common in each stage. By understanding what to expect in the future, you will be able to plan for care and transitions. You and your family may want to discuss future care (short term and long term), finances, and other legalities (such as a will, a durable power of attorney, and a health care proxy). Putting preparations in place early helps a smoother transition for everyone. Depending on the stage of diagnosis, the person with Alzheimer’s may be able to participate in these decisions and discussions.

Although there is currently no known cure for the disease, there are ways to manage it, alleviate the symptoms, slow the progression and help improve quality of life. One way to manage Alzheimer’s is through the use of medication. Some Alzheimer’s drugs focus on slowing the progression of the disease by breaking down certain chemical messengers in the brain. Other prescription medications, such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety or antipsychotic medications can help alleviate some more devastating symptoms of Alzheimer’s such as sleep disorders, agitation, anxiety, aggression and hostility. Vitamin E supplements are frequently prescribed and have become a part of a standard treatment regimen for some people with Alzheimer’s.

Non-drug treatments are also a fundamental aspect of alleviating some of the more problematic issues that arise from Alzheimer’s disease. These non-drug treatments help the social and mental state of the patient by introducing them to activities that will help them essentially “re-learn” the basics of motor and communication skills. Therapists can also help the caregiver by teaching them how to identify certain behaviors, understand its cause, and adapt the environment to help alleviate the behavior. Often recognizing what triggers a certain behavior can help the caregiver avoid the situation altogether. The caregiver can learn to redirect the person’s attention, rather than arguing, disagreeing or being confrontational.

Whether it’s through a drug or non-drug approach, the patient and the caregiver need support and education to the extent they are capable. It is painful to experience Alzheimer’s and even more excruciating to watch a loved one deteriorate, so the best thing that can be done is to get an early diagnosis and seek available resources in coping and managing this disease. Taking full advantage of all available resources and treatment options can make life significantly better for everyone in the Senior Circle.