Dementia diagnoses overturn the lives of millions of patients and their families, throwing them into a maze of health care concerns, legal matters, work issues, financial strain, housing changes and caregiver support. Even the sharpest minds can be daunted over where to begin, says Next Avenue’s recent article entitled “Alone with Alzheimer’s.” The following steps are encouraged for people newly diagnosed with some form of dementia.

Stop and Think. A professional confirmation that your brain function is impaired can trigger emotions ranging from disbelief to relief. After learning they may face an inevitable cognitive decline over time, many people rush to make decisions. However, a meeting with an experienced elder law attorney is a critical step.

Educate Yourself About Alzheimer’s. One of the first calls for help may be to the Alzheimer’s Association, which has comprehensive resources on its website and through its care coordinator on its toll-free helpline (1-800-272-3900). Both are available 24/7 to offer information, such as medical definitions, the latest research findings and a directory of professionals and support options.

Inform Your Family and Friends. Tell the people closest to you know about your illness. This can be difficult and emotional. In addition to turning your life upside down, these illnesses impact the futures of people close to you. However, it’s important to clearly state your wishes and needs on matters, such as planning your care, choosing where to live if you eventually must move and how to communicate updates with family members.

Form a Care Team. A care team is a group of people who can provide support throughout the progression of a specific illness. “One of the most important things to do following a diagnosis is to sit down and think about who your support systems are going to be,” said Beth Kallmyer, vice president for care and support at the Alzheimer’s Association.

Other members of a care team may include health care providers, therapists and legal and financial professionals. Surround yourself with friends and family members who are unafraid to discuss your diagnosis and have a consistently positive attitude.

Put Your Financial and Legal Affairs in Order. You may need an elder law attorney to help you with this, which can include filing for Social Security disability benefits, as well as drafting important estate planning documents, such as power of attorney, a health care directive and a will.

Reference: Next Avenue (Sep. 16, 2022) “Alone with Alzheimer’s”

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