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Your Family Now: Addressing an Alzheimer's diagnosis

Posted at 6:55 PM, Jun 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-22 23:47:01-04

When you think you or a loved one might have Alzheimer's disease it can be a confusing, emotional time. However, conversations about what it means for your family don't have to be complicated. 

This month we've teamed up with the Alzheimer's Association to give you the information you need to feel supported instead of scared. Dr. Rebecca Reilly is the medical director of the Methodist Hospital Geriatric Evaluation and Management Clinic. "They think if they don't have a name for it it might not be real or they are worried whether I'm going to try to put them in a nursing home which is exactly what I try not to do," Dr. Reilly said. 

Most people fear they will lose their independence, but health officials and those with the Alzheimer's Association say it is always their goal for a person to maintain as much independence as possible for as long as possible. 

To make people feel comfortable Dr. Reilly says the clinic sends a nurse to the home of patients who may have concerns about dementia. In that known setting, they discuss medical history, medications they're taking and the nurse will assess the living conditions. 

Dr. Reilly makes sure elderly patients are not taking medications with diphenhydramine, for example, which is an ingredient in PM medications and Benadryl. The American Geriatrics Society has listed that ingredient as potentially inappropriate for older adults. 

If a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, the Alzheimer's Association invites you to contact them. They work to identify immediate needs first. They also have a 24/7 Helpline 1-800-272-3900.

Clayton Freeman with the Alzheimer's Association says they offer services and resources for patients and caregivers, "things like support groups, education programs, opportunities to speak with our social worker where we can bring in an entire family to talk about the dynamics, how to plan."

Both Freeman and Dr. Reilly encourage people to seek a diagnosis if they notice issues with memory loss. An early diagnosis can help with treatment.

Freeman said, "We don't want to catch them at the crisis point where all of sudden the only option is you have to go to a long term care, we want to meet them early on and then navigate and walk them into the journey."