A diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease has long-reaching, widespread effects not only on the patient, but also on the spouse and other family members. If your spouse has been diagnosed with the early form of this disease, you’re not alone. Although only about 5 percent of Alzheimer's patients develop symptoms before age 65, this still represents about 200,000 people, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Caring for your spouse, yourself, and other family members such as children or aging parents can be a struggle. The following tips can help you ensure that your entire family receives the best possible care:
Confirm the Diagnosis
This disease can sometimes be confused with other conditions, such as reversible forms of dementia. Since there’s no one definitive test that will completely confirm a diagnosis, your spouse needs to get a comprehensive medical evaluation from a doctor who specializes in the disease. He or she may benefit from one or more of the following tests
- cognitive testing
- neurological exam
- brain imaging
You may feel isolated, so connecting with other people who understand your challenges is vital. A counselor who works with couples who face similar issues can also help.
While no one in your immediate circle of friends may be in the same situation, you can get in contact with other people facing a similar situation. Ask your spouse’s doctor about support groups, or look online for resources such as TheAlzheimerSpouse.com. The Alzheimer’s Association also has a wealth of information, including support group referrals and a helpline available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Make Financial and Care Plans
Providing care can be expensive. Your spouse may have had to stop working and may need long-term care in the future.
Talk with a financial planner and attorney to help plan for your family’s future financial needs. Also check to see if Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid have any benefits that apply to your spouse.
Involve the Family
Talk to family members, such as children, about any changes that are occurring and why.
Talk with them honestly, and include them in counseling and support group sessions. It can also help to find activities that children and other family members can continue to enjoy with you and your spouse.
Living with a spouse with early-onset Alzheimer’s can feel overwhelming. It’s important to get the help and support that your entire family needs.