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Alzheimer's Disease: Coping with Chronic Illness

How can I make my life better?

The most important step you can take is to give yourself permission to seek help as soon as you feel challenged. Taking action early will enable you to understand and deal with the many effects of a chronic illness. Learning to manage stress will help you to maintain a positive physical, emotional, and spiritual outlook on life. Your family and friends are critically important. A mental health care provider 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—something everyone deserves. At times, if depression is present, medications may be prescribed to help lift your mood.

What types of help are available?

There are many types of help available for people with chronic illnesses. Among them are:

  • Support groups — Support groups are a very useful sharing experience. They provide an environment where you can learn new ways of dealing with your illness. You may want to share approaches you have discovered with others. You will also gain strength in knowing that you are not alone.
  • Support groups for your caregiver — Alzheimer’s disease has an impact on families, and family support is important.
  • Individual counseling — Sometimes people have problems that are better addressed in a one-on-one atmosphere. By participating in individual counseling, you may more effectively express sensitive or private feelings you have about your illness and its impact on your lifestyle and relationships.
  • Care companions and respite care – Companions and personal care attendants who are trained in communicating with patients with Alzheimer’s disease and successful strategies for caring for people suffering from Alzheimer’s may be available.

Respite care programs can offer trained volunteers who provide in-home companionship for several hours a week for patients with dementia. Group respite programs are designed to give caregivers relief from caregiving while their loved one engages in social interaction and group activities.

In addition, respite care may offer assistance in grooming and hygiene, walking and exercising, preparing simple meals, and performing household tasks.

What resources are available to learn more about coping with Alzheimer’s disease?

The Alzheimer’s Association (1.800.272.3900; www.alz.org) is a good place to start to learn about educational opportunities for those interested in learning about Alzheimer’s disease.

Local chapters of the Alzheimer’s Association offer support and education to individuals who are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and to their caregivers and families. Family and caregiver education classes cover legal and financial issues, communicating and responding to difficult behaviors, and self-care for the caregiver.

Other resources include:

The Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center of the National Institute on Aging
1.800.438.4380 or 1.301.495.3311
E-mail: adear@nia.nih.gov
website: www.nia.nih.gov/Alzheimers

Family Caregiver Alliance, National Center on Caregiving
1.800.445.8106
E-mail: info@caregiver.org
Website: www.caregiver.org

American Health Assistance Foundation
1.800.437.2423
Website: www.ahaf.org

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America
1.866.232.8484 (1.866.AFA.8484)
Website: www.alzfdn.org

References:

Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation. Treatment & Care. www.alzinfo.org/treatment-care Accessed 8/18/2011

Alzheimer’s Association. Living with Alzheimer’s. www.alz.org/living_with_alzheimers_4521.asp Accessed 8/18/2011

© Copyright 1995-2011 The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. All rights reserved.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 9.192011…#9580