What to Do After an Alzheimer’s or Early Dementia Diagnosis

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia, it may be difficult to process your thoughts and feelings. However, the more you educate yourself and prepare for the future, the more confidence you and your care partners will have in your ability to deal with the challenges of the disease as time goes on.

Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are progressive, which means symptoms develop slowly over time. “Early stage” refers to people who are in the beginning stage of the disease, which can last for years. Dementia affects everyone differently, but early symptoms such as problems with memory, speed of thought, language or perception are often relatively mild and not always easy to notice. Memory problems are the most well-known early symptoms of dementia. The person may not recall recent events or may often lose their keys and glasses. Confusion is another common symptom, making it harder to plan or make complex decisions. The person may struggle to find the right word or follow a conversation, as well as experience changes in mood such as being more anxious, frightened, irritable or depressed.

At this stage, many people only need a bit of assistance. Eventually the symptoms will make it difficult to manage daily living. However, an early diagnosis gives the person with dementia and their loved ones the opportunity to plan for the future. Legal, financial and long-term care decisions can be made together, and you can take full advantage of local resources and support services.

The Alzheimers.gov website provides a wealth of information, tips and checklists to help those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or related dementia plan ahead. Important steps to take include:

  • Starting discussions early with your family members.
  • Putting important documents in one place and tell someone you trust where they are.
  • Updating documents as your situation changes.
  • Placing copies of health care directives in all medical files.
  • Giving your doctor or lawyer permission to talk directly with a caregiver as needed.

People with dementia want to remain healthy, engaged and independent for as long as possible, and care partners play an important role in helping them achieve these goals. But providing ongoing support to a person living with dementia can become challenging as the disease progresses. Feeling anxious, overwhelmed or concerned about your ability to support your loved one is normal, and seeking support is essential.

Dorson Home Care provides a range of at-home dementia care services for residents of Northern and Central New Jersey and their families. Dorson Home Care, Inc. is fully licensed by the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs and is accredited by PCS & Skilled Services. To learn more about our dementia care services, please call our West Orange, NJ office at 973.672.7691.