The Caring Corner - Blog

When Should Family Caregivers Seek Medical Advice?

By Emma Dickison

 

Alzheimer's Advocate Jo Huey

This is the second in a series of guest blogs written by Jo Huey, the Alzheimer’s Advocate®, founder of the Alzheimer’s Caregiver Institute.

This is the second in a series of guest blogs written by Jo Huey, the Alzheimer’s Advocate®, founder of the Alzheimer’s Caregiver Institute.

This is the second in a series of guest blogs written by Jo Huey, the Alzheimer’s Advocate®, founder of the Alzheimer’s Caregiver Institute.

Did you know nearly one-third of the U.S. population (65.7 million caregivers) is caring for someone who is ill, disabled or elderly?¹  Of those 65.7 million caregivers, 23% are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia.²

Last week, we talked about how to tell a “senior moment” from Alzheimer’s or dementia. This week, we’ll take it one step further. When is it time to seek professional help? The moment you notice something isn’t right!

Too often, feelings of fear and guilt prevent us from seeking medical advice. The truth is denial can do more harm than good in the long run.

Early Detection is Critical

There are several reasons why early detection of Alzheimer’s or a related disorder is critical:

Alzheimer's Early Detection

  • Financial planning: Everyone plans for death, but most people are reluctant to plan for the alternative to death; being alive and needing assistance. The first and most important step is to get your loved one’s legal and financial affairs in order to ensure they’re covered by the proper insurance, etc.
  • Identification: In order to solve a problem you must first identify the root cause through a diagnostic workup. It could be that the change you’ve noticed in your loved one is simply due to thyroid trouble or a drug interaction, both of which are easy to fix. In the event it’s something more serious, such as Alzheimer’s, you’ll need to plan how to manage the disease process in a way that protects both you and your loved one.
  • Focus for the person diagnosed: Focus on “what they can do” (i.e., abilities) rather than “what they can’t do” (i.e., disabilities).
  • Caregiver’s focus: Focus on “what you can do to assist” without sacrificing your own health and wellness. Despite the best of intentions, you cannot, nor should you try, to do everything for your loved one. Your greatest responsibility is to take care of yourself so you can advocate for your loved one. Overextending yourself will only exhaust you, which does no good for either party.

So, I repeat, “get help” as early as possible and be ready and willing to accept that help. It is the wisest decision for everyone involved.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of H.H. Franchising Systems, Inc.

¹  National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, Caregiving in the U.S. Bethesda, MD: National Alliance for Caregiving, and Washington, DC: AARP, 2009.
²  Alzheimer’s Association, 2011 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, Alzheimer’s & Dementia, Volume 7, Issue 2.