All too often, people are diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer’s or other dementias, then sent home with little advice on what to do next. Although many of their capabilities are still retained, their cognitive problems can affect their social and family lives and make it difficult to work or volunteer. Unless they live in an area that has early stage support groups, there are few resources available to them to help with these issues.
Mike Donohue, a blogger diagnosed with Alzheimer’s three years ago, participated recently in a panel discussion addressing early stage needs. He and other panelists presented concrete recommendations for resources they feel should be available:
- First Stop Programs: A place where patients just diagnosed can come and learn how they and their families can deal with AD (Alzheimer’s disease) from those of us with it.
- Support Groups: A place where Early Stagers agree to attend with regularity and be open to the public designed for Early Stage offering support, camaraderie, and encouragement.
- Creative Programs: For persons in Early Stage structured so that they are social, creative and intellectually stimulating such as to capture a person still functional and in need of more than the distraction afforded by most day care programs.
- Volunteer Coordination: A central source to find volunteer opportunities for Early Stage AD where they can be directed to do volunteer work in the range of their respective ability.
- Structured Wage Earning Workgroups: Sheltered Workshops for people with Early Onset AD to provide both work and wages when they have lost their jobs and their dignity and still need gainful employment.
You can read more about this panel discussion as well as Mike’s thoughts on Alzheimer’s on his blogs Aging with Grace and From AA to AD, A Wistful Travelogue. Mike, now 72, is a former trial attorney whose main interests are his family and his surroundings in Minneapolis. In his spare time, he writes about how lessons learned during his long ago recovery from alcoholism are helping him cope with Alzheimer’s.