Alzheimer's Disease Counseling and Support

Alzheimer's disease support is very important for individuals and families living with the condition. Alzheimer's disease, as with many chronic illnesses, will affect you both physically and mentally. It is important to realize that you are not alone and that if you feel you need help coping, you should consider seeking counseling.

Family caregivers looking after loved ones with Alzheimer's disease often experience a great deal of psychological distress, which may ultimately lead to depression and compromise their caregiving ability. Caregiver Family Therapy also assists families with recognizing, interpreting, and taking action to address symptoms of growing cognitive impairment while continuing to meet the needs of multiple family members.

The decision to seek counseling is an important step. Too often, people don't get help because they feel ashamed, guilty, or embarrassed. By deciding to get help, you make the choice to feel better and improve your life. Counseling services should be chosen with care so that you find something that best meets your needs. Working with a trained mental health care provider, you can develop the right treatment plan.

How Do I Begin Getting Help for Alzheimer's Disease?

Ask the doctor treating your Alzheimer's disease to refer you to a person with expertise in mental health. The person will assess your situation and determine the best way to help you. 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 counseling, 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 counselor can discuss:
  • The best type of counseling
  • The best place for counseling (counselor's office, outpatient clinic, residential treatment center)
  • Who will be included in your treatment (you alone, family members, others with similar problems)
  • How often you should go to counseling
  • How long counseling may last
  • Any medications that may be needed

What Are the Different Types of Counseling for Alzheimer's Disease?

If you or a loved one has Alzheimer's disease, the following list briefly describes common types of counseling offerred at the USF Health Byrd Alzheimer's Institute that may help you. These can be used together or alone, depending on the treatment plan.
  • Crisis intervention counseling. In cases of emergency (such as initial despair over diagnosis), the counselor will help you get through the crisis and refer you for further counseling or medical care, if needed.
  • Individual counseling. The person meets one-on-one with the counselor. Counseling often takes place in the privacy of the counselor's office. This type of counseling works well when problems originate with you and your thinking patterns and behaviors. Also, some problems are very personal and difficult to confront with others present. If you are experiencing depression, axiety, or grief in dealing with your or a loved one's Alzheimer's, 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 chores. These everyday strains combined with the emotional effects of dealing with a long-term illness have an enormous effect on the family dynamic. Family therapy can help family members resolve issues among each other. It also can help them adopt ways to help another family member cope better. Family members can learn how actions and ways of communicating can worsen problems. With help, new and improved ways of communicating can be explored and practiced.
  • Support Groups. These include a network of people with similar problems. These groups usually meet regularly to discuss issues related to treatment option, caregiver stress and behavior management. Click here to get information on Alzheimer's support groups hosted at the Institute.

Other Clinical Services offered at the Byrd Alzheimer's Institute include: