Finding out that your aging veteran has Alzheimer’s disease is a life changing moment in your home care experience with them. Suddenly you find yourself reevaluating everything that you had planned for your care, their future, and even your future. You know that they are at the beginning of a journey with a progressive disease that will systematically reduce their cognitive and physical functioning and memory skills until they are fully incapable of caring for themselves and may not even recognize you and other loved ones or be able to handle basic tasks of life. While this can seem like an overwhelming prospect and something that you do not truly want to face, the earlier that the disease is detected and your parent gets an accurate diagnosis, the better chances that they have of a higher quality of life.
Current science is only effective at detecting Alzheimer’s disease once the symptoms have started. At this point, however, extensive brain damage has already occurred. The hope is that eventually science will be able to detect the potential for the disease long before this brain damage happens, enabling doctors to provide medical intervention that will stop the disease and prevent the damage, keeping the disease at bay. Until then, the only thing that you can hope for is that your parent receives a diagnosis as early as possible in the progression so that decisions can be made and plans put into place to ensure the best quality of care throughout their journey.
• Start intervention as early as possible. Though there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease or treatment that can stop the progression, there are medications that can temporarily slow the progression and improve functioning. These help to keep your parent enjoying the highest level of functioning and best quality of life possible as they progress. Early detection means that your parent can get on treatment quickly, keeping the disease under control for longer,
• Empowerment through decision-making. Alzheimer’s disease can make your parent feel completely out of touch with their life. They may feel that they no longer have control or that they can no longer make their own decisions. Early detection means that they can. Getting a diagnosis early allows you to empower your parent to evaluate all of the care and management options available and make the decision that is right for them as they move forward.
• Get plans into place for a smoother transition. There is nothing easy about a journey with Alzheimer’s disease, but you can ease the stress by getting as many plans into place as possible early in the disease. These plans should cover how you are going to handle increasing care needs, such as hiring an in home health care services provider, transitioning your parent into living in your home, and hospice care. They should also include how your parent feels about life support, resuscitation, and other end of life issues. By having these plans in place you and your parent can feel like you are more prepared for the journey ahead and can just focus on living it to its fullest.