Alzheimer’s disease support is very important for those suffering from the condition. Alzheimer’s disease, as with many chronic illnesses, will affect you both physically and mentally. It is important to realize that you are not alone and that if you feel you need help coping, you should consider seeking counseling.
The decision to seek counseling is an important step. Too often, people don’t get help because they feel ashamed, guilty, or embarrassed. By deciding to get help, you make the choice to feel better and improve your life. Counseling services should be chosen with care so that you find something that best meets your needs. Working with a trained mental health care provider, you can develop the right treatment plan.
How Do I Begin Getting Help for Alzheimer’s Disease?
Ask the doctor treating your Alzheimer’s disease to refer you to a person with expertise in mental health. The person will assess your situation and determine the best way to help you. Specialists trained in mental health care include family therapists, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and other professionals.
During the initial interview, you will be asked to describe why you want counseling, any symptoms you have (emotional, mental, and physical), and your medical history. You may be given a question-and-answer survey.
What Happens After the Assessment?
Once you complete the assessment, a treatment plan will be devised. At this time, you and your counselor can discuss:
- The best type of counseling.
- The best place for counseling (counselor’s office, outpatient clinic, hospital, residential treatment center).
- Who will be included in your treatment (you alone, family members, others with similar problems).
- How often you should go to counseling.
- How long counseling may last.
- Any medications that may be needed.
What Are the Different Types of Counseling for Alzheimer’s Disease?
If you have Alzheimer’s disease, the following list briefly describes common types of counseling that may help you. These can be used together or alone, depending on the treatment plan.
- Crisis intervention counseling. In cases of emergency (such as initial despair over diagnosis), the counselor will help you get through the crisis and refer you for further counseling or medical care, if needed. These services are provided by community health agencies, help lines, and hotlines.
- Individual counseling. The person meets one-on-one with the counselor. Counseling often takes place in the privacy of the counselor’s office. This type of counseling works well when problems originate with you and your thinking patterns and behaviors. Also, some problems are very personal and difficult to confront with others present. If you are experiencing depression, anxiety, or grief in dealing with your Alzheimer’s, this may be appropriate.
- Family therapy. A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can affect the entire family. If you are the primary provider in the home, there can be financial strain. If you are a homemaker, there may need to be adjustments in the distribution of chores. These everyday strains combined with the emotional effects of dealing with a long-term illness have an enormous effect on the family dynamic. Family therapy can help family members resolve issues among each other. It also can help them adopt ways to help another family member cope better. Family members can learn how actions and ways of communicating can worsen problems. With help, new and improved ways of communicating can be explored and practiced.
- Group therapy. In group therapy, people join in a group and discuss their problems together. The session is guided by a counselor. Members in the group often share the same problem, but not always. The group session provides a place where people can confide in others who understand and share their struggles. They also can learn how they see themselves and how they are seen by others. Members gain strength in knowing that they are not alone with their problems. Group therapy is useful for a variety of problems.
- Long-term, residential treatment. In this case, the person receiving therapy lives at a treatment center. The length of stay can vary, depending on the treatment program and progress of therapy. A program can last more than a year or just a week or two. Settings include hospitals, home-like structures, and clinics. The person focuses mainly on his or her problem and on getting well. Other activities, such as work, school, family, and hobbies, temporarily take a backseat to treatment. In most programs, the person receives counseling daily and participates in regular group therapy. Additional counseling may be needed after residential treatment has ended.
- Self-help and support groups. These include a network of people with similar problems. These groups usually meet regularly without a therapist or counselor. There are support groups for people with Alzheimer’s disease and also for their families and caregivers.
Reviewed by Richard Senelick, MD on July 07, 2012
Alzheimer’s Association: “Counseling Families.”
Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation: “Counseling and Support Benefits Alzheimer’s Caregivers.”
Rosalyn Carter Institute for Caregiving: “NYU Caregiver Counseling and Support Intervention (Mittelman).”
USF Health: “Alzheimer’s Disease Counseling and Support.”
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