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Alzheimer’s Disease doesn’t just affect those with the disease, it also affects their families, friends and others who love and care for them. Once a parent or loved one is diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s Disease, an important shift is required: Concern and confusion will need to give way to acceptance and support.

It’s easier said than done, but caring for someone with Alzheimer’s starts with understanding your role as a caregiver.

In early-stage Alzheimer’s, those living with the disease are still largely functional. They can drive, engage in social activities and often continue working. At this stage, your role as a caregiver might be better defined as a care-partner.

Putting daily issues and emotional concerns aside for the moment, this is an ideal time to begin discussing long-term care and financial planning. Exploring available treatments and clinical trials, for example, may lead to positive long-term medical outcomes. You and your loved one also need to finalize any outstanding estate planning issues and meet with an elder law attorney who can help you better understand your options for long-term care. Unfortunately, as the disease progresses your loved one may need significant care that cannot be provided within the home. It is critical to determine how you will afford this care as soon as possible.

Sadly, Alzheimer’s patients only live an average of four to eight years after first being diagnosed with the disease. But early treatments have been known to extend the post-diagnosis period as much as 15 to 20 years. Solidifying a long-term care plan can go a long way to reduce anxiety about the unknown and create a stable environment for everyone involved.

Finding a new balance in your relationship may also be difficult. Those with an early Alzheimer’s diagnosis will exhibit the ability to be somewhat independent. But as memory loss increases and problem solving skills diminish, your support will be needed more and more.

Two key items to look for as the relationship shifts from one of independence to one requiring more care-partner or caregiving, are:

Safety – Is there a new safety risk to performing certain activities?
Stress – Are familiar tasks now causing too much unneeded stress?

The Alzheimer’s Association recommends that you supervise uncertain activities while giving the benefit of the doubt that they can still be handled. Once a safety concern arises or frustration nears a concerning threshold, verbal cues can help resolve the situation and begin to establish the framework of a good working relationship. For example, ask, “Is there anything I can do?”

Providing support and care is an ongoing and often emotional process. With acceptance and a healthy perspective, it’s also very rewarding. We understand the challenges you face and want to work with you to develop the right long-term care plan for you. Do not hesitate to contact our office to schedule an appointment and start this discussion.