I sat in my office on a crisp, cold day in January listening to “Sally*”, a 70 year old woman who had just been diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer’s disease over the holiday season. Recently, Sally had some tests done, a couple of scans, and after the results came in her doctor simply said: “You have Alzheimer’s Disease. Here is a prescription for medication and lets do a follow-up appointment in 6 months.” Sally was devastated.
What now? Sally did not know much about Alzheimer’s disease and was unsure of the steps to take next. Unfortunately, more and more people are being diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer’s and Sally’s experience at the doctor is the norm. People are getting diagnosed earlier, but they are not getting the much needed information and tools to help them deal with their diagnosis. Those with early stage Alzheimer’s and dementia are often left to cope with the reality of their illness on their own, and usually without much understanding. Many important life decisions can and need to be made while one is still in the early stages of the disease. Care choices and wishes for the future, driving safety and financial and legal matters are only some of the issues that need to be addressed for someone with an early diagnosis. Having a basic understanding and knowledge of the disease and its process can help many who are suffering with fear, anxiety, and the unknown. Many people try to deal with their diagnosis alone and keep it hidden, although they don’t have to.
Sally reached out to the Alzheimer’s Association and found the help and guidance that she needed. Sally has participated in several care consultations as well as attended the Living with Alzheimer’s disease for those with early stage Alzheimer’s. Sally has also realized that she still has quality of life and will continue to stay active and involved with her church, community and family. Early Diagnosis does not mean life is over; early diagnosis can actually improve quality of life and bring new meaning and purpose. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help. The Alzheimer’s Association is here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You don’t have to walk this path alone. Call us at 800-272-3900 to speak with a counselor today.
*Name has been changed to protect identity