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Fighting Alzheimer's

How to Start a Conversation About Alzheimer’s Disease

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Ruth Drew

Director, Information and Support Services, Alzheimer’s Association

It’s a conversation no family wants to have: talking to a loved one about memory loss or cognitive decline. In fact, a recent survey by the Alzheimer’s Association shows that nearly one in three people would rather say nothing if they noticed signs of Alzheimer’s in a family member, despite having concerns. 

But silence comes at a cost. That’s because early detection and diagnosis offer important benefits that can include more time for critical care planning, better disease management, and providing diagnosed individuals a voice in their future care. 

The mindful month 

June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month. Earlier this month, the Alzheimer’s Association and the Ad Council launched a new campaign encouraging families to have important early conversations around Alzheimer’s. This national ad campaign, called “Our Stories,” features real accounts of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and the defining moment they knew something was wrong. 

“Close family members, who know their loved ones best, are typically the first to notice memory issues or cognitive problems, but they are often hesitant to say something — even when they know something is wrong,” says Ruth Drew, director of information and support services for the Alzheimer’s Association. “This new campaign encourages families to notice early warning signs, trust their gut, and start a conversation.” 

Our Stories are your stories

The Our Stories website arms families with tools and resources to help them talk about Alzheimer’s, including customizable conversation starters, a list of early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s, benefits of early diagnosis, a downloadable discussion guide, and more.

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Here are just a few of the tips from the Alzheimer’s Association on how to start that difficult conversation: 

Have the conversation as early as possible

Addressing memory or cognition problems early offers an opportunity to identify the cause and take action before a crisis situation occurs.

Think about who’s best suited to initiate the conversation

If there is a family member, close friend, or trusted advisor who holds sway, include them in the conversation.

Practice conversation starters

Be thoughtful in your approach. For example, consider an open-ended question such as, “I’ve noticed a few changes in your behavior lately, and I wanted to see if you’ve noticed these changes as well.”“Alzheimer’s disease is challenging, but talking about it doesn’t have to be,” said Drew. “Having these important conversations can address concerns before a crisis situation arises and help put the individual and family on a better path for managing disease-related challenges.”

Ruth Drew, Director, Information and Support Services, Alzheimer’s Association, [email protected]

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