Dealing with a Diagnosis: Emotional Reaction to an Alzheimer’s diagnosis - Memory Ball
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Dealing with a Diagnosis: Emotional Reaction to an Alzheimer’s diagnosis

Dealing with a Diagnosis: Emotional Reaction to an Alzheimer’s diagnosis

This is the third installment in our ‘Dealing with a Diagnosis‘ series. This series aims to open the discussion on Alzheimer’s disease, reduce the stigma associated with the disease, and discuss the capabilities associated with the disease, not the limitations. Our hope is that with a more candid conversation surrounding Alzheimer’s disease, we can encourage people to seek treatment and support earlier.

Like other illnesses, an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is bound to bring about a range of emotions, both for the person who was diagnosed and their friends and family. There is no right or wrong way to feel, and your feelings may change over time. You may experience some or all of these feelings:

  • shock
  • fear
  • anger
  • resentment
  • denial
  • helplessness
  • sadness
  • frustration
  • relief
  • acceptance
  • isolation
  • sense of loss

Help for people receiving a diagnosis

Hearing that you have Alzheimer’s can be frightening, and many people who are receiving the diagnosis will be unable to take in all of the information. If possible, bring someone with you to the consultation so that they can ask questions and listen to the information the doctor is telling you. You can also request a follow-up appointment.

Coming to terms with your diagnosis can be extremely difficult, but it will help you to move forward and discover new ways of living a fulfilling life. Not everyone wants to talk about their feelings, and this is normal, but it’s important to deal with your emotions in a healthy manner. If you don’t feel like talking, perhaps you could try writing down your thoughts and feelings in a journal. Prayer or meditation may also be helpful ways of dealing with your emotions.

You may be feeling isolated, but it’s important to remember that you are not alone, and there are support programs for people with Alzheimer’s disease. Developing a strong network, including other people who are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, that you can turn to for support and advice will help you to feel connected. Helping others who are coping with a diagnosis may give you a sense of pride and purpose.

Help for caregivers, friends, and family

As a caregiver, your relationship with the person who has Alzheimer’s may change drastically. You will need to take on new or additional responsibilities, and you will also need to provide emotional support to the person who has Alzheimer’s disease. However, while your role requires you to be supportive, you will likely also need support.

You may find that you are too busy to take care of yourself, and skip things like eating well, exercising, and managing your own stress. Remember that the best thing you can do for the person you are caring for is take care of yourself. There are many healthy activities that you can do with the person you are caring for, including walks, gardening, and dancing, depending on the stage of their Alzheimer’s.

Your life will change, but as your life changes your coping strategies should too. In the past you may not have needed to actively manage your stress or seek out support groups, but these are likely things you will need to do as a caregiver. Find ways to relax, be realistic about what you can do as a caregiver, and give yourself credit instead of feeling guilty.

There are resources and information available for caregivers and for people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Contact your local Alzheimer’s society for specific information about counselors and support groups in your area:

Alzheimer Society of Toronto

Alzheimer Society of Canada

Seek out immediate help if you are feeling overwhelmed or depressed. You can call the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline: 800.272.3900

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