Should I tell my mom that she has Alzheimer’s disease?

If your mom has been experiencing memory loss or other symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease, then, most likely, she intuitively suspects something is wrong, and, therefore, has a right to know the truth and be fully informed of the situation.

While you may dread telling her, it might be a relief for her to openly talk about her disease and the life issues she is facing. Additionally, withholding the truth about a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia could lead to paranoia later and cause a breach of trust between you.

Once she knows, it is helpful for you and the family to come together to be supportive and develop a plan of care. Researchers have found that the fear of abandonment is paramount over any other fear associated with the disease, so your mother will need lots of reassurance that you will be there for her the whole journey.

Educate yourselves about Alzheimer’s disease. Talk to other caregivers. Let her know that there is nothing she could’ve done to prevent it. Allow her to ask questions, make personal decisions and just speak openly about the diagnosis, if she prefers to do so.

Try to take an upbeat approach once the diagnosis is made as your optimism can be a source of comfort to her. Assure your mom she is not alone, that many other people suffer from this brain impairment, and that there remains a lot of quality of life and time to spend together. And do spend that time together. Find things your mom most enjoys and experience those with each other, building her self-esteem and promoting a sense of purpose in her life. Have her write in a journal every day, expressing her thoughts and feelings freely and without judgment.

Above all, be very empathetic and listen to her fears and concerns. It might be helpful to join a support group or participate socially with other caregivers and affected individuals sharing the same journey.

As the disease progresses, her anxiety of the diagnosis may lessen as she will “forget” she actually has the disease or even the term “Alzheimer’s.”

Questions about Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia disorder? Contact Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, Director of Services at Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area, (225) 334-7494, advice@alzbr.org, or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.