I often get this question from families who are frustrated with their loved ones’ denial. My counsel is usually to take a deep breath and relax. A diagnosis may satisfy your suspicions, but it will not change your daily life; if you force the issue with your loved one, you may put unnecessary strain on your relationship. There are a couple of medications on the market that help some people feel more focused; they slow down the progression of the disease, but they are not cures. In the meantime, you’ve come to the right place: Caring.com has the best advice from the most prominent caregiving experts in this country. You’ll find ideas and advice on interactions and approaches that will improve your relationship with your mom. Hopefully you’ll be able to establish such a trusting relationship with your mother that she’ll open up to you and wish to know for herself why she feels different.
In any event, before getting an official diagnosis, make sure that all your paperwork is in order, i.e. Living Trusts, Durable Powers of Attorney, will, healthcare proxy and last wishes. Once a person has a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, her signature may no longer be legally binding.
There are other factors to consider: Alzheimer’s disease still carries with it a terrible stigma, which we can’t ignore. Unfortunately it will change your mom’s relationships with old friends and acquaintances. We’ve had good results counteracting this stigma with our Alzheimer’s Café (www.alzheimerscafe.com
) - if there’s one near you, get involved. Also attend support groups in your community (www.alz.org
When my brother and I realized that Dad was having problems handling his own affairs, we decided it was time to take over his living trust. We needed confirmation from the two medical professionals that he was no longer competent. At the time he had some dementia, but still functioned pretty well living alone, except for money and bills. We got him to a psychiatrist who apparently was very blunt with him. When we asked him to go to a second doctor, he flatly refused and protested forcefully that he was not crazy!
I realized the only way we would succeed was with a bit of deception. It took calls to several doctors before I found one whom I felt would work with our dilemma. We set up an appointment for a general check-up. The doctor was very gentle, low-key and treated Dad with genuine respect. While he checked Dad’s vitals and took his blood, they were chatting away about his career and interests. At some point Doc said, “We’ve checked your heart, your lungs and your reflexes. What do you say we check your memory while we’re at it?” Doc’s tone was completely natural, so Dad responded with a cheerful “sure.” - He failed the mini-mental and we got our second confirmation. As we left the doctor’s office, Dad said, “What a nice young man. We should come back and see him soon.”