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Coping With Daily Life and Alzheimer's Disease

Coping with Alzheimer’s disease can be difficult. When you get an illness like bronchitis or the flu, you know you will be feeling better and functioning normally within a week or so. Alzheimer's disease is different. It will never go away and can change your life and lifestyle -- and that of your family -- in many ways.

What Are the Effects of Alzheimer's Disease?

If you have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, the biggest hurdle you face is losing your independence. In addition, physical and mental changes from Alzheimer's disease can affect your mood and appearance and can diminish your positive self-image and reduce your self-esteem, leading to social isolation.

Alzheimer's disease can also influence your ability to function and get around at home. Confusion, as well as feeling disoriented and unable to make sound decisions, may require you to modify your work activities and environment. Because people with Alzheimer's are unable to work, you may also find yourself in financial difficulty due to the rising costs of care.

You will probably find that specific tasks take much longer to accomplish and that planning your daily activities differently can help. You may also need the help of your spouse, a relative, or a home health care provider. As your life changes, you are likely to feel a loss of control and increased anxiety about what lies ahead.

In addition to all this, you may find that your moods go up and down and that you feel angry, depressed, confused, lonely, and frustrated, especially when you first get your diagnosis. These feelings are normal, but if they interfere with your ability to enjoy life and do the things you normally do, then you should tell your doctor, and the two of you can come up with some options.

How Does Stress Affect Alzeimer's Disease?

If you are becoming increasingly stressed because of Alzheimer's disease, talk to your doctor. Prolonged stress can lead to frustration, anger, hopelessness, and depression -- all of which can worsen the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.

How Can I Make My Life Better With Alzheimer’s Disease?

To help make your life better:

  • Find out as much as you can about Alzheimer's disease and talk to your friends and family about it. Don't isolate them. You will need them, and they will want to be involved in helping to take care of you.
  • Do things you enjoy.
  • Do not be afraid to ask your doctor, nurse, or other health care provider to repeat any instructions or medical terms that you don't understand or remember. They should always be available to answer your questions and address your concerns.
  • Make use of resources and support services offered by your hospital and in your community. There are many support groups available for both Alzheimer's disease sufferers and their families (see below).
  • Learn to manage stress. This will help you to maintain a positive physical, emotional, and spiritual outlook on life. You should try to organize a daily routine that will reduce stress, with down time for both you and your family members.
  • If you, as the patient, find that you're not able to cope or, as the caregiver, that you're getting stressed out, you should seek more intensive help with a mental health professional. Taking action early will enable you to understand and deal with the many effects of having a long-term illness. A mental health professional can design a treatment plan to meet your specific needs. Strategies can be designed to help you regain a sense of control over your life and improve your quality of life.
  • If you are depressed -- and this is more than just feeling sad occasionally -- psychotherapy andantidepressants can be prescribed to help you cope.

Who does Alzheimer's affect in your family?