Sharing Alzheimer's diagnosis: Tips for caregivers

When a loved one develops Alzheimer's, knowing how and when to open up about it can be difficult. Follow these family caregiving tips for sharing an Alzheimer's diagnosis. By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you're caring for a loved one who's been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, you might wonder whether and how to tell loved ones and friends. If your loved one wants you to share the diagnosis, how will you do it? How will family and friends react? Will they know how to interact with your loved one? Consider these caregiving tips for sharing an Alzheimer's diagnosis.

Getting started

The period immediately after a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease can be stressful and frightening. You and your loved one might be struggling to come to terms with the diagnosis. Your loved one might not want to let other people know about the diagnosis out of fear that others will become uncomfortable around him or her. You might feel torn between wanting to respect your loved one's privacy and feeling the need to talk to someone about the diagnosis and how your role as caregiver will change.

If possible, discuss with your loved one how he or she wants to handle the situation and get his or her permission before sharing the information. Ideally, you'll explore the subject while your loved one is still able to express his or her wishes. If your loved one isn't able to make decisions for himself or herself, ask his or her legal decision maker how your loved one would want the information disclosed and to whom. If you're the legal decision maker and don't know your loved one's wishes, act in his or her best interests.

If you're feeling anxious about sharing the diagnosis, keep in mind that those who are close to your loved one might already have a sense that something is wrong. If you're afraid that your family won't understand or that informing others about your loved one's diagnosis will be a burden on them, consider the alternative. Keeping the diagnosis a secret could be draining for you. The sooner you tell family and friends, the sooner they can begin giving you and your loved one much-needed support.

Aug. 25, 2011 See more In-depth