Just diagnosed with Alzheimer. Now what?

Alzheimer is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and being diagnosed with it is indeed difficult to take in.  Your life will change in a matter of seconds as you board an imaginary rollercoaster of emotions.  Although it is easier said than done, acknowledging your feelings is the first step to manage all the challenges that will come after an Alzheimer diagnosis.

It all started when you first noticed a few recurring symptoms.  You made an appointment and got tested and after a long wait battling the uncertainty, you got your diagnosis:  You are suffering from Alzheimer’s.

What emotions to expect when you get the diagnosis

  • With a condition that you will have no control over, and with all the changes that will happen, you might feel angry
  • Believe it or not, there will be a sense of relief.  Once you put a name to the symptoms, you are now fully aware of what was wrong with you.
  • You may think the diagnosis is wrong. You may insist that what you have is due to the normal process of life. You might think you are just getting old.  That emotion is called denial.
  • Depression of course will be one of the most common emotions triggered by the diagnosis. You might be filled with hopelessness or sadness.
  • Questions such as “Why Me?” will pop up as you feel resentful towards life.  This emotion may be directed towards God or life itself.
  • You will not know what the future holds for you and your family. You will feel very scared of what comes next and that fear is a normal emotion.
  • You may feel all alone. As if no one can understand what you are going through. This may cause you to isolate yourself from loved ones.
  • The sense of loss is never easy to deal with as you begin to experience changes in your ability to do things.

Can you come to terms with your diagnosis?

Believe it or not:  YES YOU CAN!    And you have to!  By moving forward with acceptance, you will discover multiple ways for you to live a life that is both positive and fulfilling.  You are the only one in control of how you feel about the diagnosis. So dealing with your emotions in healthy ways should be a top priority for you.  Yes, it will be difficult at the beginning but when you commit to yourself and to your emotional needs, you will realize how strong you are to take the challenge of facing the diagnosis in a better way.

In the beginning…          

  • You should write a journal or diary with all that you feel and everything you are thinking.  You might be hesitant to talk about what you are going through so writing about it will help a lot.
  • Your family and friends might be having a really hard time accepting your diagnosis and you are able to help them cope with their feelings. Learn how to do it.  Research. Educate yourself. You will need so much of your family to go through this that you need to help them stay sane.
  • As soon as you are ready, share your feelings with your loved ones. Be honest and open about everything that is going through your head.
  • Spend time around people who might be going through your same situation. There are many resources online or locally at your hometown. Don’t be afraid to get close to supports systems like these. They will play a crucial part in this process.
  • Have an open dialogue with your doctor about every area of your life, especially the emotional one. If you or your loved ones are concerned about your emotional health, you can be treated properly in time.
  • Counseling or speaking to a pastor or clergy member will also help. They can provide reassurance and help you deal with better with what’s coming.
  • Stay healthy and keep doing the activities you are used to doing as long as you are able to. Eventually you might not be able to so this is a good time to kick it up a notch and carpe diem.
  • Mourning, grieving and feeling sad is normal to a certain extent. You are entitled to that time. However be very careful not to dig yourself so deep that you won’t be able to climb out of that process. 

Ask all you need to ask!

It’s very important that despite the cloudy judgment at first, and all the rushing emotions, that you ask your doctor everything and anything about what comes next for you. Here are a few examples of question you will not want to leave unanswered:

1.       What test’s and tools did you use to get the results for my diagnosis?

2.       What exactly did you measure through the tests?

3.       What are the treatment possibilities for my diagnosis?

4.       Which symptoms will be targeted with the medication?

5.       Are there any clinical trials available?

6.       Is there any information on clinical treatment research?

7.       Will you keep being my doctor or will you have to refer me to someone else?

8.       In case of hospitalization, where should I go and will you be able to be there?

9.       Where can I find resources to help myself and my loved ones cope?

10.   Anything else I should know? (there is always so much more)