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Esther Heerema, MSW

Helpful (and Not So Helpful) Responses to a Loved One's News of Alzheimer's

By October 21, 2012

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Have you ever been in the position of hearing the surprising news from a friend or family member that he has dementia? Or, perhaps you're in the early stages of Alzheimer's and have decided to share this recent diagnosis with a friend. Are you concerned about how she'll react?

If you're ever on the receiving end of hearing about a diagnosis of Alzheimer's, whether for that person or her family member, take care with your response. You can only imagine the courage it has taken for her to share that information with someone, so honor that courage with a listening response.

I've compiled a few suggestions of how to react (and what not to say) when someone tells you they have Alzheimer's, but would love to hear from you. What's been helpful or hurtful when you've shared your diagnosis of Alzheimer's, or that of a family member? What comments should people say and which should they hold back? Please comment below, or feel free to email me at Alzheimers.guide@about.com with your thoughts as well.

October 23, 2012 at 2:15 am
(1) Carol Cavanagh says:

My husband has Alzheimer’s ,He was an avid reader, did crosswords every day,was good at maths.studed the racing form every Saturday ,
He was a 1st grade soccer referee .who got plenty of excersise ,ate healthy food.But he still got Alzheimer’s .
I am sick of reading if you do all the above things you could prevent Alzheimer’s. Also keeping your mind active as a preventive measure..is another lie.
I know a Queens Council lawyer who has Alzheimer’s .
In the nursing home with my husband there is an emeritus professor who has written 12 books. Also an accountant. Try telling me their minds weren’t active.
It’s a Lottery who gets it.if you are going to have it ,nothing you do will make any difference

October 24, 2012 at 9:04 am
(2) Esther Heerema, MSW says:

Hi Carol,

I hear you; it’s almost as if the person is blamed for having Alzheimer’s disease when you constantly hear that mental exercise or physical activity can prevent it. The development of Alzheimer’s is not someone’s fault.

I, too, know plenty of people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementia who were healthy and active, and who challenged their brains throughout their life.

Most of the research that I need to report, however, does continue to show a connection between healthy living and prevention of dementia. I don’t have the answer for why the research is not always born out in real life, but I hope that you’ll be patient with me as science continues to try to figure this mystery out.

Thanks for sharing. I appreciate it!

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