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10 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself if You Have Alzheimer's

What Not to Do With Dementia

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Updated March 24, 2012

A diagnosis of Alzheimer's or another dementia is life-altering. There's no clear road map for navigating the course, but there are some traps to avoid along the way that can help you cope more effectively. Consider these 10 things to stop doing if you have Alzheimer's.
  1. Stop blaming yourself
    Living in the past doesn’t help anyone, especially if it’s done in the attitude of regret or negative focus. Wondering what you might have been able to do differently to avoid getting dementia doesn’t change the reality. It also places the focus on things you can't control, like the past or your genetics, rather than what you can control, such as healthy, fulfilling living. Blaming yourself consumes the energy you need for daily decisions and life.

    Free yourself from the blame game: Alzheimer's is not your fault.

  2. Stop allowing yourself to be defined by Alzheimer’s disease
    Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your worth as a person is based on having a perfect memory. Although you may have dementia, you remain a uniquely gifted person whose life consists of more than just Alzheimer’s. You may need to gently remind yourself and others of this at times. One way to help others understand this in the future is to write down pieces of your story or use photos to share who you are with others.

  3. Stop assuming you’re wrong about everything
    Your memory might not be great, and you may get your facts confused at times, but don’t surrender all control to Alzheimer's. Know that there are also times when you will be right. Balance the awareness of your deficits with that knowledge. You can also try some memory techniques to help you recall or keep track of information, allowing you a little more independence.

  4. Stop being embarrassed and isolating yourself
    Just because you have Alzheimer’s or another dementia doesn't mean you should stop interacting with others. Withdrawing because you don’t want others to see your memory slip-ups or notice a difficulty with finding the right words is an understandable, but not helpful, reaction. You may want to do anything to avoid embarrassing yourself, but this lack of social interaction can contribute to depression, which can further tax your memory. Don't deprive others of the gift of spending time with you.

  5. Stop thinking you can do this alone
    You’re not an island, and you don’t have to try to be one. Resisting assistance or support from others can weigh both you and your loved ones down. Share your struggles with someone else, go for a walk with a friend, or join a support group for those with dementia. Be willing to allow others to encourage and help you, and accept some of the community resources available. Yes, you may be strong, but you can increase that strength by joining with others in this battle, instead of fighting it alone.

  6. Stop living in denial
    Pretending or ignoring your symptoms of dementia won’t help it go away. The sooner you get an accurate diagnosis, the sooner you can be proactive with your treatment. There are some reversible causes of confusion and memory loss, such as vitamin B12 deficiency or normal pressure hydrocephalus, so a thorough evaluation is important.

    Facing your diagnosis allows you to begin treatment earlier, and also might encourage you to be intentional in your living. For example, you might consider how you can create memories with loved ones, apologize where you need to, and forgive those who have wronged you.

  7. Stop delaying planning for the future
    Putting off tough decisions might make today easier, but in the long run, it doesn't help you. Decide who you want to help you with medical decisions and designate that person as a medical power of attorney. Do the same for finances by asking someone to serve as your financial power of attorney. Research your options and communicate to your loved ones your preferences if you need more help and can’t live independently. One way you can control some of the future challenges is by determining how you would like them handled.

    Additionally, realize that you are giving your loved ones a gift by being willing to clearly talk about your choices and preferences so they don't have to guess about them in the future.

  8. Stop self-medicating with alcohol or drugs
    Drowning your sorrows or warping reality may briefly make you feel better, but it will also make your problem much worse. Combining substance abuse with dementia, along with prescribed medications, is a recipe for disaster. Your best bet for quality of life is physical exercise, mental exercise, medications that can slow the progression of dementia as prescribed by your physician, and social interaction.

  9. Stop giving up
    While depression might be an understandable reaction to a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, don’t surrender before you have to. Devaluing your life, giving up, and letting the dementia win without even a fight is a sad way to face this foe. If you’re feeling depressed or anxious, ask your physician if an antidepressant or an anti-anxiety medication would be appropriate to help you.

    Also, make a goal each day to do one thing that you don’t feel like doing, like calling a friend or helping your neighbor rake her leaves. As hard as it is to start it, you will likely feel encouraged afterward.

  10. Stop taking everything seriously
    Alzheimer’s is serious; we all know that. But you don’t have to shelve your sense of humor as you react to it. The old saying, “Laughter is good medicine,” has been scientifically proven repeatedly. So, take the opportunity to watch a comedy on tv, read a joke book, and be willing to laugh at yourself and with others.

    Enjoy every day for what it has brought you. Easier said than done, but a reminder for all of us, dementia or not.
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