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Early-stage Alzheimer disease

Todd Stern M.Ed.
Todd Stern M.Ed.
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Early-stage Alzheimer disease

Imagine being told that the growing forgetfulness and confused thinking you have noticed is not the result of ordinary aging, but instead, the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a diagnosis anybody would dread. News like this changes everything. Although some may try to deny it, and some may try to hide it, most suffer in silence. The sad part of the story is that it doesn’t have to be that way.
Twenty years ago, much less was understood about the disease. Today we have hope. Presently, there are new medications available to manage symptoms, supportive resources are more readily available and ongoing research is being done with the goal of finding a cure. No longer do you have to suffer in silence.

The stigma of Alzheimer’s

In an effort to respond to the needs of individuals in the early stages of the disease we must also understand that affected people not only have to contend with the impact of progressive neurological breakdown, but also the social consequences of the diagnosis. The stigma associated with Alzheimer’s disease can be as devastating as the illness itself. Generally, people feel uncomfortable dealing with any form of cognitive and mental change. People don’t know what to say, or how to react when faced with an unexpected type of behavior. Individuals with early-stage Alzheimer’s may also try to avoid social situations as they often fear embarrassing themselves and others. Consequently, over a period of time, the family may find themselves severely isolated.

Help is only a phone call away

Through your GP, Neurologist or Social worker, resources can be accessed. There are support groups, activity groups and discussion groups tailored to meet the unique needs of people in the early stage of the disease process.

The goals of these group are:
1- To provide a forum for discussion of the diagnosis, fears and concerns.
2- To focus primarily on improving the quality of life through maximizing the remaining skills.
3- To identify personal and family strengths and strategies and incorporate them into daily living.
4- To share the support and affirmation of others who are experiencing the same changes.
5- To socialize and meet others who are sharing a similar experience with you

By offering this type of continuity, families can receive required assistance. Because each person responds to the disease in a different way, and disease progression is varied, people can live productive and fulfilling lives for many years in spite of their Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
Clearly, a gap exists in the services offered to individuals and families dealing with the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Referrals to organizations need to be given to families immediately following a diagnosis. With assistance, individuals and families can be helped to strategize and plan for the future, to come to terms with the diagnosis, and learn how to make sense of their experience.
For information on obtaining help please refer to the following links

The Alzheimer Society of Montreal
Alzheimer Groupe Inc.