How to Break the News When the Diagnosis Is Alzheimer’s

Summary: When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s it’s best to inform family members and friends. This article discusses several ways to do this.

Why Informing Others Is Important: When a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s it is usually very difficult to decide whether or not to make the diagnosis public, but there are many advantages to doing so. One is that it will help others be more understanding and compassionate with the diagnosed person. In addition, revealing the diagnosis gives friends and family members an opportunity to participate in planning for the future. Perhaps one of the most important reasons to go public is that it enables the patient and the caregiver to receive understanding and emotional support.

Whom to Inform: At a minimum, immediate family members should be told about the diagnosis. It’s also helpful to let close friends know what’s going on. In addition, you may want to let neighbors and more casual acquaintances know about the diagnosis. More details please

How to Let People Know: There are several ways to communicate to others that you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. First, decide who will announce the news – the person who was just diagnosed, a family member, or close friend. The announcement may be made at a family meeting or you may want to inform people individually. Sometimes sending out a letter can be helpful because it gives people time to digest the news before talking with you about it. This avoids putting them on the spot.

Reactions to Expect: Some people may withdraw from you and your loved one because they don’t feel comfortable being around someone with Alzheimer’s. But most family members and friends will rise to the occasion, accept the diagnosis and offer support both for the patient and the family, including the person who will become the primary caregiver.

Special Issues to Consider When Informing a Teenager or Child: Be especially thoughtful when informing young people about the illness. It’s important to be honest with them about the situation. With younger children you need to use simple language they can understand. Tell them the basic facts but don’t give more information than you feel they can handle.

Legal Obligations to Inform Others: In some states physicians are required to inform the Bureau or Department of Motor Vehicles when a person is diagnosed with dementia. Check with your physician about whether he or she has a legal obligation to inform any authorities.

If You Decide to Keep It Confidential: You have the right, of course, to keep the diagnosis confidential, but realize this can sometimes lead to stress for everyone involved. It prevents both the patient and the caregiver from getting much-needed support from friends and family members.

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