Living with Alzheimer's Disease - Support and Help

Support for those living with AD

Finding out that you have Alzheimer’s disease can be incredibly frightening and living with it is a constant battle.

Thanks to various charities, organisations and the media, a lot more people in the developed world are now aware of this confusing and terminal illness, so it’s very likely that when you are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s you have a fair idea of what is to come.

There will be a lot of challenges ahead and as the disease progresses you need to ensure there are people around who will be able to care for you.

Like any terminal illness, thinking ahead is important. Knowing more about the disease and how it progresses can help people make decisions about the future – who will look after you, can you be looked after at home or will you need a care home?

How to Live With Alzheimer's - Getting Your Affairs in Order

Getting finances in order is important and you may want to appoint someone trustworthy to deal with this as the disease advances.

These are things that you need to look at while you still have the mental capacity to make important decisions. In the majority of western countries either medical insurance or a national health service will cover the care of Alzheimer’s patients so it’s worth checking with local health care providers and social services departments to see what will be available to you.

In the early stages of the disease there are things that can help to make life easier – certain changes will have to be made but keeping to routines and writing things down can help.

Make sure you keep up an active social life as long as possible. Tell people you have problems with your memory so that they are more understanding and patient. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and concentrate on things you can still do instead of the things you can’t do anymore.

Deciding whether or not to carry on driving is a tough one. Driving relies on reaction and alertness. In the early stages of the disease it’s still possible to drive and this can be a lifeline for many elderly people. But take your doctor’s advice on whether or not to continue driving.

In the majority of developed countries you have to inform the government driving department about the illness and their doctors may examine you to assess your ability to drive.

In the later stages driving will become impossible so perhaps early on, while you can still make decisions, it may be a good idea to line up a family member to help you with travelling.

It’s a very touchy subject for many people but so called “living wills” are becoming more common for people with Alzheimer’s. These are where a person makes a conscious decision to limit or forgo any medical treatment which may keep them alive such as ventilators, resuscitation techniques on intravenous fluid and food. The wills are made at a time when the person with Alzheimer’s still has the capacity to make decisions. A person could also consider giving a relative or loved one a legal “power of attorney” to make a decision on their behalf in the later stages of the disease.

This isn’t euthanasia or assisted suicide. It’s basically a person’s legal right to refuse treatment during a life threatening illness such as a heart attack or serious infection, which may prolong their life.

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