What to do When a Loved One is in Early Stage Alzheimer’s

Your role as a caregiver or care partner in the early stages of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is crucial.

But how do you know where to begin or what to expect? Chances are, you haven’t experienced this before.

The early stages of Alzheimer’s or related disorders can last years but the disease affects people in different ways. It cannot be predicted how anyone will experience symptoms or progress through the stages.

Get Empowered with Information and Resources:

There are excellent resources to consult regarding early signs and symptoms.

Here are a few;

http://dailycaring.com/3-stages-of-dementia-what-to-expect/

www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/topics/symptoms

www.alz.org/care/alzheimers

However, it should be left to the medical professionals to make the determination of these diseases.

The more you can educate yourself about the disease, the more prepared you may feel about the future and your ability to solve problems as the disease progresses. If you have an idea of what to expect, you will find putting a plan in place empowering.

The Alzheimer’s Association outlines steps for the caregiver to follow;

  • Accepting the diagnosis: This may happen sooner for the caregiver than the individual with the disease. By accepting the diagnosis, you can share information and provide support in the process of acceptance.
  • Understanding Alzheimer’s: The progression of the disease varies from person to person.
  • Getting information on treatments and trials: These treatments address the symptoms of the disease to help live a quality life for as long as possible.
  • Plan for the future: Those with the disease want to have a say in the decisions that will affect their life, including legal, financial, and long-term care planning.
  • Living alone: Many people can live independently in the early stages. Getting assistance with housekeeping, meals, transportation, bill paying and other daily chores may be necessary.  Vigilance for safety and awareness of any changes that indicate the need for additional care is important.

Finding a New Balance:

In the early stages, it is most likely that the person with the dementia can still function independently. It can be challenging for the caregiver to know how much assistance to give.

“As a care partner, your support with these everyday tasks can help the person with dementia develop new coping strategies that will help maximize independence….finding balance between interdependence and independence may increase confidence for both of you.” – The Alzheimer’s Association.

To help you determine when and how to provide the most appropriate support, the Alzheimer’s Association has these tips to consider;

*Safety First

*Avoid Stress

*Make a positive assumption

*Create a help signal

*Talk it over

*Work better together

North Shore Elder Services (NSES) will be hosting a training for caregivers presented by Robin Bromberg from the Alzheimer’s Association. This three part workshop entitled, “Living with Early Stage Alzheimer’s” is designed specifically for caregivers caring for someone in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias.

This series runs Thursdays, June 8th, June 15th, and June 22nd from 4:00PM to 6:00PM at North Shore Elder Services, 300 Rosewood Drive, Suite 200, Danvers MA.  Pre-registration is required by calling Kathy Perrella at 978-624-2214 or by calling the Alzheimer’s Association at 1-800-272-3900.

Kathy Perrella, Caregiver Support Specialist at NSES, thinks there is a demand for such training. “Often times in our ongoing support groups I hear someone say, ‘I wish I knew this before.’  If we can help people be better prepared by teaching them about the disease and what resources are available to them, we might make things easier and less painful.  When someone is newly diagnosed, there are certain things you need to do.  We can help people understand what services North Shore Elder Services offers and how we can help before waiting till a crisis.”

Coming early September will be another caregiver training called “Savvy Caregiving” that North Shore Elder Services will offer. This program will run once per week for six weeks at NSES.  It will be specific training for those caregivers dealing with any type of dementia.  Stay tuned for more information about this program.

NSES offers many programs and trainings throughout the year. It is highly recommended to check our website for these events or to call our Caregiver Support Specialist Kathy Perrella at 978-624-2214 for updates.

Author Info

Jayne Girodat

Jayne Girodat is the Communications Specialist at North Shore Elder Services. Along with ten years in the position of Caregiver Support Specialist at another ASAP, Jayne was a long-distance caregiver to parents for the same amount of time. That experience serves as motivation to better understand the issues of aging and to engage people in conversations about those issues. Jayne's background in teaching contributes to her appreciation of social media as a tool to educate readers on aging concerns. "I love asking people questions. Everyone likes to be heard. When you ask and then listen, you'll find everyone has a story and some of those stories are gems. I think it is particularly important to hear the voices of our older adults. Those are the stories I really connect to and hope to bring to North Shore Elder Services' audience."

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