Do I tell my loved one she has Alzheimer’s disease — and how do I prepare the rest of the family for what is then in store?
This is one of those topics that has been debated by experts for years. Some feel that anyone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s should be told, while others think they should be spared the knowledge. What it comes down to is this: What do you think will be best for your loved one? Some people will go into a tailspin and become severely depressed. Others might take it more in stride. Would your loved one want to know, to help her cope? Keep in mind, if you don’t speak up, someone else is liable to slip and that would be devastating. If there is a good doctor-patient relationship, it is best to let the doctor relay the information in a somewhat matter-of-fact way. A family member, however, should be with your loved one when the physician talks with her. Then, after the doctor broaches the subject, you have an opening to call other family members and let them know. A family meeting is a good idea. Having the diagnosis out in the open is usually liberating and helpful for everyone involved. At this family meeting, you can begin brainstorming about what you want to do next. Getting an Alzheimer’s patient’s financial and legal affairs is a very important step early on. One very helpful resource is this free pamphlet on estate planning “Don’t Lose Your Wallet! The Indispensable Guide to Estate Planning.” Sometimes tension arises among family members when these topics are discussed. Whatever you do, keep in mind that extra pressure is not a good thing for your loved one. You should arrange a time when you can meet without him or her present so you can talk openly with family members without upsetting him or her. If it comes to needing a mediator, then get one. This is the time to act like responsible adults and do what is right for your loved one, nothing else. Allow the individual — and yourself and family members — to grieve. Alzheimer’s can be devastating to not only the patient but also family members and other loved ones. It’s important for everyone to take care of each other and offer support. No one should be hesitant about joining a support group. It helps to be with others in a like situation. There should be one or more support groups nearby for early-stage Alzheimer’s patients. Have your loved one get involved with one of them. It’s important for Alzheimer’s patients to have a forum to express themselves to others in similar situations. (This is true for many emotional conditions and situations.) If anybody is still having a lot of difficulty coping after trying out a support group, have them consult a professional counselor. It’s vital that you support one another. Teamwork will take you farther than working alone. Let go of circumstances you can’t control. Choose your battles wisely. And, as odd as it might sound, always try to keep a good sense of humor.