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Moving Forward After an Alzheimer's Diagnosis

by Matt Kudish, Alzheimer's & Dementia Expert
April 25, 2013

Question: I just found out that my father has Alzheimer’s. I have no idea how and when to open up about the diagnosis and feeling very frightened. I am worried about how my siblings will react. What is the best way for me to share this news?

Answer: It can be incredibly difficult to figure out how to move forward after learning that someone close to you has been diagnosed with dementia. Along with the influx of so many complicated feelings often comes an urgent sense for the need to plan, to do something, which can also be complicated by an inability to take the first step. Without meaningful guidance and support, the challenges of trying to figure out how to proceed can be stressful, frightening, and overwhelming to say the least.  

Take your lead from your father by including him in the decision making, if he is able. You want to help him by developing a network of support for him, but at the same time it’s important that you allow him the time to become comfortable sharing his diagnosis. Family dynamics are often complicated and there is rarely a “right time” or easy way to share this kind of news.  

The sooner your siblings are made aware of the situation, the sooner you can begin to have difficult but necessary discussions. Practical conversations around how care is to be provided—and paid for—as the disease progresses are rarely easy but are incredibly important. Legal and financial planning is also essential and should begin as quickly as possible while your father still has the capacity to sign legal documents. He will need to decide who he trusts to make decisions on his behalf and he needs to have the opportunity to speak to his wishes while he is still able.  

If your father’s participation is no longer an option, consider arranging a family meeting with a Care Consultant through your local Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. Care Consultation is an in-depth, personalized service for individuals and families who are facing many decisions and challenges associated with Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders. The goal is for each family to develop a better understanding of the disease, make a plan to secure needed care, and develop strategies for the best possible symptom management and communication.

In these situations, it is easy to feel like you are alone in the world. Remember this is not the case. The Alzheimer’s Association is available to provide you with information, education and support around all aspects, and for the full duration, of your father’s disease. Take advantage of our free programs and services by calling our 24-hour Helpline at 800-272-3900.

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Matt Kudish, LMSW, is Vice President, Director of Education, Outreach and Caregiver Services at the Alzheimer’s Association, New York City Chapter. In this role, Matt oversees the Chapter’s 24-hour Helpline and Care Consultation programs, as well as comprehensive education and training initiatives throughout the five boroughs.

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