Getting a Diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease
It's always difficult to learn that someone close to you has Alzheimer's disease, and people react in many different ways. Some people feel relieved to finally know what's wrong and are able to put a name to what they've been seeing. Others are shocked, and worry about how they will cope with what lies ahead. Others still question the accuracy of the diagnosis; they may feel that their loved one needs to undergo more tests or get a second opinion before they will believe that it's actually Alzheimer's disease.
All of these feelings are, of course, normal. A diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease can be overwhelming. People need to confront the news when they're ready, and often they need to talk about it while they are trying to accept it. But you should always remember that you are not alone, and that plenty of people want to help you. Friends, other family members, your local Alzheimer's Australia, healthcare professionals and support organisations can all support you and help you deal with the diagnosis. Most people find that, sooner or later, they have found a way to accept the news.
Some typical things you might be feeling if someone close to you has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease include:
Anxiety: The person may be worried about what the future holds, while you may be anxious about your ability to support someone throughout the disease.
Frustration: The person may feel frustrated by his or her declining abilities, and you may feel frustrated by his or her growing dependence on you.
Grief and loss: You may feel a deep sense of loss and sadness for the future you imagined. Even though the person is still alive, feelings of grief are normal.
Guilt: While your loved one may feel guilty and that this is somehow his or her fault, you may feel confused about what you could now be doing to help or guilty about how long it took to get a diagnosis.
Denial: You or your loved one may feel that the diagnosis was wrong or that it really won't make much difference in your life. Seeking a second opinion may help.
The above feelings can come and go, and not everyone goes through all of these emotions, nor do they occur in any particular order. You may wake up one day feeling angry, go on with your day, and find that you are quite content by the time evening arrives. You may even find that you have some “inappropriate” reactions – like a desire to joke or make light of the disease or symptoms. But don't be too hard on yourself, because it's all normal – there is no right or wrong way to react.