4 steps for living better with Alzheimer’s disease
Efforts in the early part of the disease can make the later stages easier. Take the first step today.
If you've been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, you already know you're facing changes and challenges. But even though the disease worsens over time, you can prepare for the adjustments to come.
A healthy body, a strong support system, realistic expectations and good planning all can help improve quality of life for you and your loved ones. Here are four steps you can take:
1. Stay healthy. After an Alzheimer's diagnosis, a healthful lifestyle and regular medical exams are still important. You'll still need treatment for any problems such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol. A healthful lifestyle includes:
- Getting regular exercise, which helps people with Alzheimer's disease feel better. Ask your doctor what types and amounts of exercise are right for you.
- Eating a diet that includes fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Make an effort to build a good working relationship with your doctor, who may be a primary care provider or a specialist. You'll need to work together closely to manage Alzheimer's.
2. Manage emotions. An Alzheimer's diagnosis often brings on difficult feelings. You might experience:
- Loss of your old self-image.
The Alzheimer's Association offers a number of strategies you can use to help manage these feelings, including:
- Sharing feelings with friends and family.
- Talking to your doctor, a counselor or a spiritual advisor.
- Joining a support group. Your doctor or the Alzheimer's Association can help you find one.
3. Cope with the symptoms. As Alzheimer's progresses, familiar activities and tasks will become more difficult. The Alzheimer's Association offers these tips for making life easier:
- Reserve difficult tasks for the time of day when you usually feel best.
- Take your time doing things. Don't let others rush you.
- If a task feels too hard, take a break.
- If you're having trouble with a conversation, ask the person to speak slowly, repeat what was said or write down words you don't understand.
- To help with memory loss, post a schedule of daily activities, such as mealtimes, exercise, medication schedules and bedtime.
- Arrange for reminders or phone calls from other people when you have appointments.
- Post important phone numbers next to the phone.
- Keep a book of important information, such as people's names, thoughts and ideas you want to remember, your address, and directions to your house.
- Place reminders around the house to turn off appliances and lock doors.
4. Plan your future. In the years after diagnosis, many healthcare, financial and legal decisions will have to be made. Consider the following topics for discussion:
- Power of attorney for healthcare. This gives someone else the legal authority to make decisions about your healthcare when you're no longer able to. Talk to the person you've chosen about what kind of care you want in the event of injury or illness or if questions of life support ever arise. Also talk about what kind of care facility you want if one becomes necessary.
- Finances. Include a trusted family member or friend and a financial advisor in the conservation, the Alzheimer's Association recommends. You'll want to consider your potential healthcare costs and sources of income, available financial assistance, and what to do with remaining assets.
- Safety issues. Decide ahead of time which symptoms will signal the time for you to stop driving or taking public transportation by yourself. This will save your family from making difficult decisions on their own later on.
Research continues on ways to prevent and treat Alzheimer's. In the meantime, loved ones, healthcare professionals and organizations such as the Alzheimer's Association can help you meet the challenges of the disease.