When the worry and wonder have ceased, and the diagnosis has been made that your loved on has Alzheimer’s disease, you will find yourself moving from being a temporary caregiver to the realization that your caregiving will now be permanent.
Looking over the past few months or years, you probably can identify many signs that were present pointing to this day. This is the time to seriously learn as much as you can about the changes that will occur in the brain and that will eventually affect each of the key skills and capacities that we often take for granted when things are going well.
This is the time to develop a new mindset regarding Alzheimer’s disease. While you may be anxious because of the losses you experience in your loved one, you can choose to focus on these losses and perhaps become overwhelmed, or you can begin to look for the positive signs of life and dignity that remain. Instead of wishing that your life would unfold the way you always pictured it would, you can embrace what is happening and realize this is your life now. It can be as equally fulfilling if you slowly change the way you think about life’s circumstances, letting go of some things and embracing others.
This new mindset requires us to think about ourselves and the adjustments we have to make to cope with disease. We need to think more creatively about finding ways to help the person with Alzheimer’s disease compensate and feel empowered.
Because of the prevalent attitudes about aging and dementia that exist in contemporary society, it is easy to forget or fail to acknowledge that persons with Alzheimer’s disease still have the capacity to self-reflect and desire to be contributing members of society. When we fail to change the way we think about Alzheimer’s disease, we run the risk of acting inappropriately or unintentionally hurting our loved ones.
It helps to remember that not all the key brain functions will diminish at the same time, and much remains. When we forget or fail to acknowledge the remaining functions, negative actions can become part of our caregiving style.
In part II of the series “Something is Wrong… Early to Mild Stage Alzheimer’s Disease”, we will explore some of these negative actions and look for ways to help our loved ones compensate, cope, and adapt to their ever-changing lifestyle.