Q. I have just received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Should I tell my friends?
When you learn that you have a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, you might hesitate to tell others. You might be coming to terms with the diagnosis yourself or fear that others might feel uncomfortable around you.
It is true that your relationship with family and friends will change. But it is important to talk to the people in your life about Alzheimer’s disease and about the changes you will all experience together.
Talking about your diagnosis is important in order to help people understand Alzheimer’s disease and to learn about how they can continue to be a part of your life. The following suggestions may help:
Explain that Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging but a disease of the brain that results in impaired memory, thinking and behavior.
Share educational information on Alzheimer’s disease or invite family and friends to attend Alzheimer's education programs.
Be honest about how you feel about your diagnosis and allow other family members to do the same.
Assure friends that although the disease will change your life, you want to continue enjoying their company.
Let family and friends know when and how you may need their help and support.
Most people with Alzheimer’s disease continue to live at home as the disease progresses. As a result, your partner may have to manage the household and your care. He or she may feel a sense of loss because of the changes the disease brings to your relationship. The following suggestions may benefit your relationship:
Continue to participate in as many activities as you can.
Modify activities to your changing abilities.
Talk with your partner about how he or she can assist you.
Work together to gather information about caregiver services and their costs, such as housekeeping and respite care, and start a file you can consult when they are needed.
Encourage your partner to attend a support group for caregivers.
Being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease is no different from being diagnosed with heart disease or diabetes. It is going to cause changes in your life, and the more your friends and family know, the more equipped they will be to support you.
NANCY TURNEY received a bachelor's degree in social work and a certificate in gerontology. If you have a specific question you would like answered in this column, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org or call Turney at the Crescenta-Cañada YMCA, (818) 790-0123, Ext. 225.