6 Ways to Tell Friends and Family About a Dementia Diagnosis

Jun 10, 2020
Senior woman and daughter talking on the couch

One of the tasks you’ll have to face not long after your loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia is telling family and close friends. Not everyone will respond in the same way, of course, and some reactions may cause disappointment. It can help to realize that they initially may feel fear, anger or unsure of how to respond or what role you may be expecting them to play.

There are guidelines you can consider to help deliver this news. It’s easier to let people know beforehand that you have something you need to discuss. This gives them some time to start preparing for the news instead of it seeming to come out of nowhere. You’ll also want to have the conversation privately and at a time when it won’t be rushed.

Remember your own reaction to the diagnosis and you’ll be better prepared for how they may take the news. This won’t be a one-time conversation so it’s important to let them know that you understand they will have many questions later on, just as you most likely did. Give them time to process the information and to ask questions and expect to see their expressions of sadness, anger or disbelief. Encouraging them to become more knowledgeable about the disease can help, as well as pointing them in the direction of educational resources and support groups.

However, if you are the primary caregiver, they’ll need to understand that you won’t be able to take on the task of helping everyone accept this news. But as you are the most familiar with your loved one’s condition and its impact, expect to be the one most people will ask for updates. You may want to appoint someone close to be the conveyor of news to those outside of the family circle.

To make this undertaking easier, here are 6 tips that may help you prepare to deliver the news.

  1. Whenever possible, it should be up to those diagnosed to decide who they’d like to know, when and how much information should be shared. This is not only a devastating diagnosis, but many people are sensitive to the stigma that still exists. Don’t assume this is news that should freely be shared without having the discussion with the person first. When they are not able to make this decision, try to act in the way you believe they would want or what is in their best interests.
  2. As much as possible, wait until you’re emotionally ready to discuss the diagnosis. Beyond immediate and close family members, it can be helpful if you give yourself a little time to process the information before having to share what has happened. But realize that keeping this a secret will also be emotionally draining to you. Being able to share this news will also mean that others can begin supporting you.
  3. Be honest but depending on who you’re telling, you may want to provide more or less detail. For those who will be regularly interacting with yourself and your loved one, it can be helpful if they have a better understanding of the disease, its symptoms and some of the behavior that may be expected. But don’t use your energy to be the main education resource or counselor.
  4. Encourage those close relatives and friends to be open and honest about how they feel. You don’t need to put on a brave front or to make them feel that you expect them to either. No one needs to be designated the strong one. In the coming time ahead, everyone’s strength will be tested and you’ll need to be able to lean on each other. It’s more supportive to feel that you’re all in this together.
  5. As you become more comfortable, reach out or respond to those who ask how they can help. You can’t go through this alone. Think of tasks that you could use help with or that others could more easily do, freeing up your time to tackle those that require your personal attention. Almost anyone can make a trip to buy groceries, pick up prescriptions or drive to appointments. If it’s someone your loved one would like to spend time with, maybe they could come for a visit, share an activity or go out for a walk together.
  6. Be prepared for the reaction you may receive upon hearing the news. There may actually be some people who will choose to no longer be in your life, although it won’t necessarily mean they don’t care. They may feel so uncomfortable, fearful that this may happen to them or someone they love or afraid that they will say or do something wrong that they will stay away. Everyone’s ability to handle life’s tough choices are different. You’ll have to just let these people go.

Brightside Memory Support Assisted Living

We know receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia is hard – not only on the individual but the family and friends as well. If you’re the primary caregiver, you are also likely to be the one who will need to let people know of this diagnosis and that isn’t always easy.

We are here to help you and your loved one adjust to this life-changing news and to support you as you reach out to others. At Brightside Memory Support Assisted Living, we understand the difficulties and can help you rise to the challenges.

If you have questions about short- or long-term care for a loved one with dementia, contact Brightside Assisted Living and Memory Care today or call Margaret Nagel at (517) 206-5000 or download our brochure to learn about our care levels, cost, and amenities.

memory care

Subscribe to our blog.

Recent Posts

8 Ways an Independent Living Community Supports Your Lifestyle

What do you want out of retirement? The freedom to roam? Relief from all the responsibilities of owning a home? Time to pursue self-fulfillment? Exceptional services and amenities? No matter how you perceive your desired retirement lifestyle, take a look at some of...

Health Changes to Look for When Visiting Mom Over the Holidays

The holidays are a wonderful time to get together with family and friends, but they also offer an opportunity to assess the health and well-being of a senior loved one. This is especially true if it has been weeks or months since the last visit since changes will...

Dementia: Understanding Sundown Syndrome

Dementia is a devastating diagnosis with many implications, not the least of which is a condition known as sundown syndrome. Also called sundowning or sundowner’s syndrome this condition generally strikes late in the day as the sun goes down but can occur anytime...

5 Tips for Better Mornings with Arthritis

“Arthritis” is an umbrella term for a variety of diseases and conditions that cause joint pain and inflammation.  While people of all ages can have arthritis, seniors often expect arthritis to occur as they age and when it does, mornings can be especially painful....

Why Everyone Needs an Advance Directive

Do you know what will happen if you are suddenly incapacitated and cannot make decisions for yourself? While it’s human nature to adhere to the “that won’t happen to me” mindset, the reality is that no one knows what the future holds. That’s why every adult needs an...

5 Decorating Tips for Your Senior Living Retirement Home

After years of living in a family home, moving to a senior living community and starting anew means decorating a new senior living home, something that can be a fun and exciting experience. But where to begin? Whether the new home is a house, condo, cottage or...

The Alzheimer’s Disease Challenges Women Face

Alzheimer’s disease is devastating and its prevalence is on the rise. According to the alz.org report, “2023 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures,” in 2023 there are about 6.7 million Americans age 65 and older with the disease, and as the population ages, that...

Home Safety for Older Adults: A Checklist of Top Considerations

Home safety for older adults is top of mind concern for loved ones and adult children. According to the AARP Home and Community Preference Survey,  79% of seniors (ages 50 and above) prefer to live at home as they age, but only about 34% recognize they may need to...

When One Partner Has a Dementia Diagnosis and the Other Doesn’t

A dementia diagnosis is a devastating event in any marriage and one that really changes everything going forward. Suddenly there are so many unknowns, so many new concerns, and so much sadness that the healthy spouse may be overwhelmed. One of the greatest of the...

What Services Do Memory Care Communities Provide?

Making the decision to move yourself or a loved one to a memory care community should be a well-informed one. All memory care communities are not created equal, but the best have several things in common. When comparing memory care communities be sure to include the...

Share This