Tips for Helping a Loved One Cope With an Early-Onset Diagnosis

It's hard for family members to see their loved ones with Alzheimer's. I know it was especially hard for me when my mother was diagnosed at the age of 58.

I wanted to deny the diagnosis and refuse to believe it was happening. But denial did not help us cope nor did it do anything about the condition.

This is my story and how I dealt with my mother's diagnosis. My hope is that this share can help you to adjust more easily and understand what is happening.

Adjusting to this "new normal"

Adjusting to the diagnosis was an important step for my mom and me to take in order to cope.

I can't deny that it was a struggle to adjust at first. In time, I was able to connect with my mom in a more effective way. Likewise, my mom also had to adjust to the disease. A way that I made this more possible for her was by encouraging the pursuit of tasks and hobbies.

With the progression of the disease, however, some tasks and hobbies became more of a challenge to my mom. As a caregiver, I recognized that I had to again adjust my own expectations, simplify, and encourage her to continue where she could.

Caregiver tip

Family members may be apprehensive at first but one way you can help your loved ones adjust is by supporting them in any interest they have — from sports, art projects, to physical activity. Just watching movies together - it doesn't matter how small.

The goal is to help your loved one enjoy life and feel a sense of purpose.

Establishing a routine

I never dreamed I would be a caregiver for my mom when she was diagnosed.

The responsibility of caring for her and helping her understand that there were changes taking place in her body was sometimes difficult for me to understand or process. A way I made the adjustment easier on myself and my mom was by coming up with a routine that we could share.

A routine was important for my mom because it gave her a sense of security and confidence in knowing what to expect next. There were certain things I would always do before bedtime, during our morning routine, and throughout the day.

These routines also aided me in knowing what expectations to set and where we were in the process of taking care of ourselves.

Caregiver tip

Setting up routines can help your loved one feel more at ease and make the transition less traumatic. Look at their daily schedule and try to match activity with a time period.

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Make room for the things that bring joy

Making daily activities a priority was extremely helpful in managing my mom's symptoms. We did our best to balance activities that brought us joy with our necessary routines.

It wasn't always easy but it made coping with Alzheimer's more bearable. Try new things together by taking a walk, going on an outing, or simply laughing at old family stories and photos.

Coping with an early-onset Alzheimer's diagnosis

Accepting the diagnosis can be one of the hardest steps for a person and their family members to take. Caregiver denial can make it harder for a loved one to cope with new needs and accept each new stage. Your acceptance can help them feel safe and you feel a sense of control and peace.

How do you cope with denial yourself? How do you deal with the challenge of helping someone adjust to a new diagnosis without denying what is happening? Share with us in the comments below, or share your story with the community.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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