If your parent has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, you’re not alone. In the United States alone, another person develops the disease every 66 seconds, creating more than 15 million children, spouses or other family members who are standing in a similar position as you. Despite the prevalence of the disease, family members rarely feel prepared after a diagnosis occurs.
An Alzheimer’s diagnosis may come as a shock to family members, or it may offer clarity after a difficult period of poor health and multiple examinations. Whatever your family’s situation, an Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be difficult to bear. Jason Basile, Executive Director at The Columbia Presbyterian Community in Lexington, SC, helps families understand their parents disease and the journey ahead. “After a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, families can experience a period of grief or confusion,” says Basile. “It’s important to seek help from healthcare experts in order to know what steps to take next. While a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease may seem ominously final, you and your loved one still have a life to live and choices to make that will ensure they experience the greatest quality of life possible.”
Understand the Stages
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive form of dementia, meaning that its effects and symptoms gradually worsen over time. Dementia is categorized by stages: early, middle and late. If your parent’s doctor did not tell you, ask them what stage of Alzheimer’s they believe your parent is in, or how far it has progressed. Understanding the stage of your parent’s disease will help you know what to expect in terms of providing care and planning for the future.
If your parent is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, they may still be rather independent and show minimal symptoms that affect their daily life. However, those in the middle and late stages show significant signs of cognitive decline and require a great deal of support in order to live healthily. Eventually, most seniors with Alzheimer’s require full-time professional care in a memory care community. Each individual experiences Alzheimer’s differently, and the rate of their progression could vary from a few years to twenty.
What Do We Do Now?
If you plan to fill the role of your parent’s primary caregiver, there are plenty of decisions to make to prepare for their future care and current quality of life. According to The Alzheimer’s Association®, some of the best things you can do after a parent’s diagnosis is take care of future plans and begin searching for sources of support.
As you make preparations for your parent’s care, consider the following:
- Educate Yourself – If you’re caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s disease, it’s crucial that you understand what they are and will be going through. Educate yourself on their disease by reading trusted sources (The Alzheimer’s Association® and the Mayo Clinic® are trusted sources for health information) or seeking advice from your parent’s doctor and other experts in the field of memory loss. The more you know about your parent’s symptoms and the changes that occur with their disease, the better you’ll be able to provide support and care.
- Settle Affairs – Even though your parent may have decades left, their final years may not allow them the cognitive function required to make important decisions about their legal and financial end-of-life plans. It’s wise to take care of issues such as wills, estates, and end-of-life wishes early on while your parent can still participate in the decisions. Meet with a financial advisor or elder law attorney to begin the process. Though it may feel strange to make such arrangements now, you and your parent will experience greater peace of mind for having these affairs settled.
- Plan for the Future – In addition to legal and financial concerns, you should also begin to consider options for your parent’s future care. Will you be able to provide support on your own? Will your parent move in with you and your family? What services are available in your area that would help with care support? If your loved one is in the earlier stages of Alzheimer’s, make these decisions together if you can. Find out how they feel about moving to a memory care community if and when the time comes.
- Find Support – The journey ahead of you is not going to be easy. Alzheimer’s is a difficult disease and is often accompanied by lifestyle changes and troubling emotions. Children and caregivers of loved ones with dementia need support from compassionate people who understand what they are going through. Begin reaching out to friends and family, sharing the news of your parent’s diagnosis and searching for those who will be able to offer emotional support throughout this journey. Additionally, you can join a support group at a local memory care community or Alzheimer’s Association® chapter. Organized support groups are excellent sources of education and support for those caring for parents and other loved ones with memory loss.
We’re Here for You
“We understand how difficult it is for families of those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia,” says Basile. “Whenever a parent requires care, their children often experience many challenges in relation to caregiving. However, with the proper support system in place, you can find ways to ease the burdens of care and help your parent enjoy a high quality of life.
“The Columbia Presbyterian Community offers memory care services throughout our care continuum for those who live with the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease. Our experienced staff understands not only our residents’ needs, but the needs of their families. We care for the children and loved ones of our residents through compassionate advice and education. When families are experiencing the challenges of memory loss, no one should have to go through it alone. Our team is here for our residents and their families.”
If you would like to learn more about caring for a parent diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or the memory care services available at our community, call The Columbia Presbyterian Community today.
Senior Living with Southern Hospitality
Welcome to The Columbia Presbyterian Community, a 30-acre Life Plan Community on the banks of the Saluda River just minutes from downtown Columbia and Lexington, South Carolina. From gorgeous green spaces, walking trails, gazebos and the river boardwalk to refreshing indoor retreats – our stained-glass chapel, common spaces and elegant apartments – you’ll discover the charm of southern hospitality in every inch of our community.
Longevity & Innovation as a Life Plan Community
The Columbia Presbyterian Community is a Life Plan Community, offering a wide range of senior lifestyles and services including independent living, assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing care and short-term rehabilitation. All living options are designed to present residents with the dignity and choice they desire.
We believe a Life Plan Community should allow future planning and living to merge. Having a plan in place – and the security of access to a continuum of health care services – grants residents the freedom to live life to the fullest.
A Legacy of Service
As one of the Presbyterian Communities of South Carolina, The Columbia Presbyterian Community is a compassionate Christian ministry committed to enriching the quality of life for seniors of all faiths. Built on the values of relationships, service, teamwork and excellence, we ensure our mission and faith are honored daily. While striving to create the highest quality of retirement lifestyles for our residents, we work each day to enrich the spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being of seniors and their families, with our deep heritage leading the way.
Learn more about The Columbia Presbyterian Community. Contact us today!