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Receiving the New Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Dementia

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Receiving the new diagnosis of Alzheimer’s for my FIL, was devastating.

I’m a caregiver. I’ve been taking care of various family members since 1982. I’ve dealt with at least 3 different types of cancer, various surgeries, COPD, CHF, glaucoma, Parkinson’s disease, TIAs and mini-strokes, severe strokes, dementia caused by cancer, strokes and Parkinson’s, broken bones and injured joints… and now I’m going to learn how to care for someone with Alzheimer’s Disease.

 

There’s something about those words “Alzheimer’s Disease” that has the power to frighten and intimidate. We’ve “known” for a while that my FIL has some form of dementia. We’ve known for a month that this is not just a guess, but an actual diagnosis from a neurologist. But it was only this afternoon that the doctor said “Alzheimer’s”.

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There is still such a stigma with the diagnosis of dementia – any kind of dementia. FIL has tried for a month to ignore the initial dementia diagnosis, because to him it’s a sign of some sort of weakness. Frankly, knowing FIL’s family history and about his TIAs, I really thought it would be vascular dementia, but nope. It’s Alzheimer’s Disease.

 

And “Alzheimer’s” has such an intimidating, menacing sound to it. As experienced as I am with taking care of people, as much as I’ve seen, done, dealt with over the past 30 years, to hear that word associated with someone I know and care about is scary, even to me. It is the thought of my FIL losing more and more of himself as this ugly disease progresses. It is the thought that my husband himself might actually be susceptible to it, and might eventually succumb and lose himself, his memories…

 

…it is the fact that “Alzheimer’s Disease” isn’t an abstract something that has happened to a friend of a friend, or even someone I know, but to a member of my family. It’s really hit home this time.

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Judy became a family caregiver when her father was diagnosed with cancer some 30 years ago. Since that time, she has helped care for most of her family as they dealt with various medical issues, surgeries, and the exigencies of aging, as well as the legal and practical issues that need to be addressed. It became a family joke that she "inherited her nursing skills from her grandmother" -- who was, incidentally, one of the first 100 registered nurses in the state of Texas! Caregiving has been one of the most difficult, yet rewarding, things Judy has ever done. After learning the hard way about Durable Powers of Attorney, Medical Proxies, Advanced Directives, DNR forms, Wills, Estates, Judy now shares her caregiving experiences in the hope of assisting others who are now on that same journey. Judy spent some time in a couple of on-line support groups for caregivers, eventually becoming one of the moderators for one group. She then founded the Facebook group "Senior Caregivers" as a way of reaching out to the many other caregivers out there who need encouragement, support and advice.