Ask your doctor the right questions about your Alzheimer’s diagnosis

Just Diagnosed

Receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is never easy — it’s life changing. It is normal to experience a range of emotions. Acknowledging your feelings can be an empowering first step in coping with the challenges ahead.

Emotions you may have

You noticed symptoms. You made a doctor’s appointment. You took tests. And you felt a roller coaster of emotions — fear, hope, despair, denial. Then you received a diagnosis. You may have felt numb, unsure of how to respond or where to turn.

You also may be grieving over the present losses you are experiencing, or the expectation of future changes as the disease progresses. It can be helpful to identify and understand some of the emotions you may experience after receiving your diagnosis.

These emotions may include:

  • Anger. Your life is taking a different course than the one you and your family had planned. You cannot control the course of the disease.
  • Relief. The changes you were experiencing were cause for concern. A diagnosis validated these concerns by assigning a name to your symptoms.
  • Denial. The diagnosis seems impossible to believe. You may feel overwhelmed by how your life will change as a result of Alzheimer’s.
  • Depression. You may feel sad or hopeless about the way your life is changing.
  • Resentment. You may be asking yourself what you did to deserve your diagnosis or why this is happening to you and not someone else.
  • Fear. You may be fearful of the future and how your family will be affected.
  • Isolation. You may feel as if no one understands what you’re going through or lose interest in maintaining relationships with others.
  • Sense of loss. It may be difficult to accept changes in your abilities.

If these feelings linger week after week, you may be dealing with depression or anxiety. Feeling depressed or anxious about your diagnosis is common, but both can be successfully treated.

Taking care of your emotional needs

Coming to terms with your diagnosis and the emotions you are feeling will help you accept your diagnosis, move forward, and discover new ways to live a positive and fulfilling life.

You are the only person who can change how you feel about your diagnosis. So it’s important to find healthy ways to deal with your emotions. This can be difficult at the beginning. But once you make the commitment to take care of your emotional needs, you may find that you can rise to the challenge and face your diagnosis. This is a new phase of your life, and you can choose to experience it with sense of connection to your emotional health.

When working through your feelings, try a combination of approaches. The following tips may be helpful:

    • Write down your thoughts and feelings about your diagnosis in a journal.
    • You may find your friends and family struggling with your diagnosis and their feelings. Learn more about how you can help family and friends.
    • Share your feelings with close family and friends. Speak open and honestly about your feelings.
    • Surround yourself with a good support system that includes individuals who are also living in the early stage of the disease and understand what you’re going through. Join our ALZConnected message boards or learn more about support programs.
    • Join an early-stage support group. It can provide you with a safe and supportive environment of peers. To find a support group in your area, check with your local Alzheimer’s Association chapter.
    • Talk to your doctor if you or others are concerned about your emotional well-being. Your doctor can determine the most appropriate treatment plan to address your concerns.
    • Seek help from a counselor or clergy member. He or she can help you to see things in a new way and help you understand more fully what you are feeling.
    • If you are feeling misunderstood or stereotyped because of your diagnosis, learn what you can do to overcome stigma.
    • Stay engaged. Continue to do the activities you enjoy for as long as you are able.
    • Take the time you need to feel sad, mourn and grieve.
    • No two people deal with their diagnosis in exactly the same way. There is no right approach. Some days may be more difficult than others, but don’t be discouraged. Learn coping tips to help you manage challenges.

You are not alone

A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can leave you feeling disconnected, isolated or abandoned from others. You may feel unsure of where to turn and that no one can possibly understand what you’re going through. People living with early-stage Alzheimer’s have stated that one of the most important lessons they learned early on in their diagnosis is this: they could not just wait for others to help them – they had to go out and help themselves to the best of their ability.

Whenever facing difficult times, having a good support network you can turn to for advice and encouragement may help you feel socially connected and give you a sense of belonging and purpose. Make sure your network includes other people who are living in the early stage of the disease. Connecting with others like you may help put your own experiences living with the disease in perspective, and provide you with the support and encouragement necessary to move beyond your diagnosis.

Questions for your doctor

After receiving your diagnosis, it’s normal to leave your doctor’s office unsure of what questions to ask. You just received life-changing news, and you need time to absorb this information and understand what it means for you and your family.

Your doctor is an important member of your care team. Use the opportunity to ask your doctor questions about your diagnosis, all the available options, and the benefits and risks of each choice you make.

You may be asking: “How do I know what to ask my doctor?”

Members of our Alzheimer’s Association National Early-Stage Advisory Group have shared their own experiences and questions they wish they had asked their doctors. You may find this information helpful as you develop your own list of questions.

Download these questions and others as a PDF

Example questions:

The diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease

  1. What test(s) or tools did you use to determine my diagnosis?
  2. What are you measuring with the tests you performed?

Alzheimer’s disease

  1. How will the disease progress?
  2. What can I expect in the future?


  1. What treatment options are available?
  2. Which symptoms are being targeting by each medication?

Clinical trials

  1. What clinical trials are available?
  2. Where can I find published information about clinical treatment studies?

Care team

  1. How familiar are you with Alzheimer’s disease? Will you be managing my care going forward?
  2. If I need to be hospitalized, will you be able to provide care in this setting?

Care and support

  1. What resources are available to help me learn more about my diagnosis? My family?
  2. What support services are available to help me live well with the disease, for as long as possible?


Fun Fall Activities for Seniors and Their Caregivers

Of the four seasons, autumn tends to get the least amount of attention and is generally regarded as the lead-in to the holidays. However, fall is a great opportunity for outings and activities that seniors and family caregivers can enjoy together. Use these ideas to kick off the season with tasty treats, colorful outings and fun crafts.

Fall Color Tours

One of the biggest highlights of autumn is the turning of the leaves. Short walks and leisurely drives allow seniors with varying levels of mobility to admire the fall foliage and get some fresh air before the weather turns chilly. For loved ones who are homebound, gathering some leaves for crafts and sensory boxes can help them feel engaged with the outside world and excited for the changing seasons. Use an online foliage map to see when the fall colors will peak in your area.

All about Pumpkin

Carving jack-o-lanterns is a classic family tradition that can be easily adapted to meet a senior’s abilities. Visiting a local pumpkin patch is a great outing idea that can help a loved one get into the fall spirit. Both of you can pick out pumpkins to bring home, and many patches also offer fall-themed games, contests and activities on certain days.

Instead of carving your pumpkins this year, try decorating them with paint, ribbon, glitter, fabric, decoupage, rhinestones, or whatever craft supplies you have on hand. Work with your loved one to select a design and bring it to life. No-carve pumpkins tend to last longer than traditional jack-o-lanterns, too. If carving is still your preferred method, it is best to handle the tricky knifework yourself. Just be sure to have the senior participate throughout the process. Let them pick the theme/stencil, scoop out the pulp and separate the seeds, which are delicious roasted in the oven!

Happy Halloween

Younger generations typically consider Halloween to be the best part of fall, but this holiday can be too spooky for some seniors, especially those living with dementia. Decorating and celebrating are still possible, just make a point of keeping props and costumes wholesome and cheerful. For example, opt for a pumpkin patch or harvest vibe in lieu of a haunted house or scary cemetery theme when decorating. Do-it-yourself decor and costumes are perfect in this instance because they give you and your loved one something to do together, and the finished products can be as cute, scary or silly as you like.

Cook Up a Celebration

If decorating for Halloween isn’t a good fit for your household, making sweet treats together is another delicious way of celebrating. Caramel apples, marshmallow crispy treats, pumpkin bread, mulled cider and sugar cookies for decorating are simple, memory-evoking recipes. Flavorful fall spices like ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg will leave your home smelling wonderful and add powerful antioxidants to your food, too.

 Autumn brings an abundance of seasonal produce, such as winter squash, apples, pears, beets, figs, parsnips, and other root vegetables. These ingredients are perfect for both sweet and savory comfort foods. Regardless of what is on the menu, try turning your mundane grocery store run into a fun outing by purchasing your ingredients at a local farmers market.