First steps for families

When someone has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia, the news may be upsetting for both the individual and those who care about him. Most likely you have been worried about the changes you have been seeing in him and you may also be anxious about the future.

However, an important first step has already been taken: getting a diagnosis. If you are the primary caregiver or an involved family member, there are things you can do right now that might make life a little easier. This information can help.

1. Recognize that you are going through a variety of emotions
The news of the diagnosis and the changes it will bring can cause you to have a variety of feelings: anger, denial, embarrassment, frustration, fear, sadness and guilt. These emotions are normal. If your feelings are overwhelming and won't go away, talk to your doctor.

2. Learn about Alzheimer's disease and other dementias
Learn as much about the disease and providing care as you can. Share this information with those closest to you, such as family members, friends and co-workers.

3. Recognize that the disease affects a person's abilities
Alzheimer's disease progresses over time. It will affect how one functions day to day. Learn about the changes the disease will cause so that you have realistic expectations. Learn to be patient, help them remain independent and maintain a sense of control.

4. Don't lose sight of the person
Treat the person with dignity and respect. Emotions will remain, as will the need for companionship and belonging. Provide activities and interactions that bring a sense of joy and celebration. Focus on the abilities that remain.

5. Explore treatment options
Medications are available that can help some people with symptom management. Discuss their risks and benefits with the doctor.

6. Recognize that caregiving can take its toll
Providing care to a person with dementia can take its toll on the caregiver. Maintain your physical health, stay active and make healthy food choices. Find time for activities you enjoy. Take care of yourself too!

7. Seek out help
To determine what help you need, think about your strengths and weaknesses, what you need and what would help you in your caregiving role. Seek out support from friends and family. Call your local Alzheimer Society to find out what help is available in your area.

8. Develop a support network
Find an outlet to express your feelings. It may be a member of your family, a good friend, members of a support group or someone at the local Alzheimer Society.

9. Plan for the future
Support the person in planning for the future while they are able to be involved in the decision-making process. Help get all paperwork in order. Make certain she has talked about health-care decisions or has documented her wishes. Legal and estate planning should also be discussed. Create an alternate plan should you be unable to provide care.

10. Know that the Alzheimer Society is here to help
Please know we are always just an email or a phone call away if you have a question or need support. You can contact our Education Coordinator at or by calling 902-628-2257.

Last Updated: 02/21/2018