Receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia can be devastating and overwhelming. People often experience the entire spectrum of emotions, from disbelief or anger to sadness or even relief.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association all of these emotions are normal. Allow yourself time to process and fully understand the diagnosis and what it means going forward. You don’t need to feel rushed or pressured into telling people right away. It is normal to feel hesitant or worried about how family and friends may respond, but remember there is no right or wrong way to break the news.
Here, a few individuals with an early-stage diagnosis expressed their feelings and experiences when sharing the news with family and friends:
“I tell everyone. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. People need to know that we’re just like them, even though we have this condition.”
“I don’t want to be treated differently, so I’m careful about who I tell.”
“Some people act like they don’t want to get near me because for some strange reason they think they might catch it, too.”
“It’s a funny thing. Some of the people I was most worried about telling turned out to be really understanding. There were others too, though, that just didn’t understand at all.”
Although it’s hard to predict what people’s reactions will be, you won’t know unless you give them the opportunity to respond to your news.
Some things to keep in mind when talking about your diagnosis:
- Try to be calm as you talk and accept that some people may be upset and emotional at first.
- Talk about what you expect moving forward and what is important to you. If you want to be involved in decisions regarding your life for as long as possible, let people know!
- Discuss a plan to make sure your financial, legal, and medical wishes are known and honored when you are no longer able to make those decisions.
- You may want to talk about possible care options as the disease progresses.
- Don’t ask people to make promises they might not be able to keep.
- Talk about the things you are still able to do and what things are becoming more difficult.
- Encourage people to ask questions so they better understand how to help, and allow them to help where they can.