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Alzheimer's disease: Counselling and support

Being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease can be a shock, and many people find counselling is useful in coming to terms with the condition and living with Alzheimer's disease.

Where do I start?

Ask your doctor to refer you to a professional with expertise in mental health. This person will assess your situation to determine if there is cause for concern, diagnose the problem, and determine the best treatment. 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 counselling, 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 counsellor can discuss:

  • The best type of counselling.
  • The best place for counselling (counsellor's clinic, outpatient clinic, hospital, residential treatment centre).
  • Who will be included in your treatment (you alone, family members, others with similar problems).
  • How often you should go to counselling.
  • How long counselling may last.
  • Any medications that may be needed.

What are the different types of counselling?

The following list briefly describes common types of counselling. These can be used together or alone, depending on the treatment plan.

Crisis intervention counselling. In cases of emergency (such as initial despair over diagnosis), the counsellor will help you get through the crisis and refer you for further counselling or medical care, if needed.

Individual counselling. You meet one-on-one with the counsellor. Counselling often takes place in the privacy of the counsellor's office. If you are experiencing depression, anxiety, or grief in dealing with your Alzheimer's disease, 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 housework and other tasks. These everyday strains combined with the emotional effects of dealing with a long-term illness have an enormous effect on the family as a whole. Family therapy can help family members resolve issues collectively. It can also help them adopt ways to help other family members cope better. Family members can learn how certain actions and ways of communicating can worsen problems. With help, new and improved ways of communicating can be explored and practised.

Self-help and support groups. These include a network of people with similar problems. These groups usually meet regularly without a therapist or counsellor. There are support groups for people with Alzheimer's disease and also for their families and carers.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on May 18, 2016

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