4 Steps to Take when Mom or Dad is Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or Dementia

4 Steps to Take when Mom or Dad is Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or Dementia

4 Steps to Take when Mom or Dad is Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or Dementia

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An estimated one in three Americans will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. That translates to millions of Americans living with a dementia diagnosis, and many more millions of family caregivers providing support to them.

When your parent is diagnosed with dementia, it can be devastating for both of you. What should you do? What steps should you take to make sure that your parent has the care and support he or she needs?


Consider these four critical steps you and your family should take when an older loved one gets a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or other dementia disorder.


1. The Right Diagnosis

Work with your loved one’s doctor to rule out treatable causes of cognitive loss. Some forms of dementia aren’t caused by neurological deterioration. They could be side effects of other physical ailments like heart disease, brain masses, or intracranial bleeds. A severe urinary tract infection can cause dementia-like symptoms. Review all medications with the primary care physician. Over-medication or drug interactions from prescription regimens that aren’t coordinated could trigger memory loss. In such cases, treatment of the underlying causes might alleviate dementia symptoms.

Your parent’s doctor will likely order blood work and scans to rule out primary causes. If the doctor suspects that adverse drug interactions have caused your parent’s dementia-like symptoms, they will revise the medication regimen. You may be asked to help monitor your parent’s medication compliance and to log symptoms to help the doctor reach a definitive diagnosis. Often dementia symptoms have no discernible cause and supportive care is the best option.


2. Ask Questions, Get Support

Your parent will need a lot of understanding and support. Eventually, he or she will need caregiving from a family member, in-home care providers or a residential memory care home.

Your parent will become increasingly reliant on you to make informed healthcare decisions. You should begin learning as much as you can about dementia caregiving so that you’ll be ready to make the right choices for your parent. 

You might consider joining a dementia caregiver support group. There are several here in Cincinnati, including the group that meets monthly here in Hyde Park. It may be helpful to network with other caregivers and be mutually supportive.

The Alzheimer’s Association — Greater Cincinnati Chapter and the Council on Aging can connect you with learning opportunities, support groups, and other resources. Discuss what you learn, especially online with your parent’s doctor.


3. Make financial, legal and medical arrangements

If your parent’s dementia hasn’t yet progressed to the point that he or she is debilitated, make sure you work with him or her to develop a care plan.

Now is the time for your parent to choose a residential retirement care provider, to designate his or her medical, legal and financial powers of attorney, and to complete a living will or advance care directive. If your parent has specific ideas for the dispensation of assets, those should be spelled out in legal documentation while he or she can still direct.


4. Plan for additional support or possible move

Dementia symptoms may progress slowly but rapidly worsen. It may not be safe for your parent to continue living alone. If you or one of your siblings is willing to provide daily care, it may be time to move your parent into a family caregiver’s home, or hire a live-in care partner.

Or, your parent might be interested in moving into a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), which can provide everything from assisted independent living and memory support therapy to advanced round-the-clock nursing care.

A CCRC can provide your parent a way to socialize with other seniors and live as independently as possible, for as long as possible. They can engage in enriching activities, and you and your family will have peace of mind. You will know that your parent is being closely looked after.

A dementia or Alzheimer’s diagnosis isn’t an end. It’s a beginning.

To be sure, it’s the beginning to a challenging chapter. But, by taking these four steps to set affairs in order and arrange for memory care, you and your parent can alleviate some of the worry and focus on enjoying the time you have together.

Click here to download our Dementia Guide. We've created this Dementia Guidebook as a resource for caregivers of people living with memory loss, to help you help your loved one age as successfully as possible.

You can also download our Financial Answers Decision Guide to help you plan for the costs of care. Marjorie P. Lee Retirement Community has decades of experience in handling this disease. And we’re here to help you.

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Kristin Davenport
February 12, 2019
Kristin Davenport is the Director of Communications for Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS). Kristin leads ERS’s efforts to share stories that delight and inspire through social media, online content, annual reports, magazines, newsletters, public relations, and events. Kristin earned her BFA in graphic design from Wittenberg University. She joined ERS in 2014 after a 25-year career as a visual journalist and creative director with American City Business Journals. Her role at ERS has ignited her passion for making Cincinnati a dementia-inclusive city, and she spends time with residents as a SAIDO® Learning lead supporter. Kristin is the executive producer and co-host of the Linkage Podcast for ERS. Kristin and her husband Alex live in Lebanon, Ohio, with their two daughters. She also serves as a Trustee and the President of the Lebanon Food Pantry and is a board member for ArtScape Lebanon, where she teaches painting and has an art studio, Indium Art.

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