A diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease will affect your body, mind, and emotions. It will have a big impact on your life and your family. But you don’t have to handle it alone. Counseling and support groups can be great outlets if you feel you need help dealing with fear, anger, or stress.
The decision to seek counseling is an important step. Too often, people don't get help because they feel ashamed or guilty. But when you get assistance, you make the choice to feel better and improve your life. A trained mental health care provider can help you choose the right therapy that meets your needs.
How Do I Start?
Ask the doctor treating your Alzheimer's to refer you to a few mental health professionals. They might include family therapists, social workers, psychologists, or psychiatrists.
When you have your first visit with the counselor you choose, they’ll ask you why you want counseling, what symptoms you have (emotional, mental, and physical), and your medical history. You might get a survey to fill out with these questions.
Your answers will give the counselor a better idea of the best way to help you. You can discuss:
- The best type of counseling for you
- The best place to have it (counselor's office, outpatient clinic, hospital, residential treatment center, telemedicine visit)
- Who will join in your treatment (you alone, your family members, other people who are living with a condition like Alzheimer’s)
- How often you should have sessions
- How long counseling may last
- Any medications that might help you
Types of Counseling
There are many different kinds of support that can help you handle your Alzheimer’s diagnosis. You might use them together or alone, depending on your treatment plan.
- Crisis intervention counseling. If grief or despair becomes an emergency, a counselor can help you get through the crisis and refer you for more counseling or medical care, if you need it. You can find these services through community health agencies, help lines, and hotlines.
- Individual counseling. You meet one on one with a counselor, usually in the privacy of their office. This arrangement works well when you want to work on your thinking patterns and habits, or if your problems are very personal and hard to talk about in front of others. This may be a good option for you if you’re facing depression, anxiety, or grief in dealing with your Alzheimer's.
- Family therapy. A diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease can affect the entire family. You may need to make tough choices about your finances or who will be in charge of your care. These everyday strains combined with the emotional effects of the diagnosis can be a lot for your loved ones to handle. Family therapy can help all of you resolve issues together. You can also learn new ways to support each other.
- Group therapy. You’ll join with other people to discuss problems together, guided by a counselor. Members in the group often are dealing with the same problem you’re facing, but not always. The session offers a place where you can confide in others who understand and share your struggles.
- Long-term, residential treatment. In this case, you get therapy while you live at a treatment center. A program can last more than a year or just a week or two. You’ll focus mainly on your problem and on getting well. Other activities, such as work, family, and hobbies, take a back seat during this time. In most programs, you’ll get counseling daily and join in regular group therapy. You may need more counseling after residential treatment is over.
- Self-help and support groups. These let you connect with other people who have Alzheimer’s and their families and caregivers. You can offer each other understanding and advice on the challenges of the disease. You’ll meet regularly without a therapist or counselor. Ask your health care team if there are any groups that meet in your area.