What to Do After an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

By Gillian Rittmaster, LCSW, Assistant Executive Director of WJCS Jewish Programs


News of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis or of any related dementia is shocking and frightening. Those who faced this reality often don’t know where to turn. Unfortunately, the number of people coping with this situation is growing. 


Over 6 million Americans aged 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. More than 11 million Americans provide unpaid care to loved ones with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia. The stress on individuals who are diagnosed as well as their caregivers can be enormous, from both a practical point of view as well as an emotional one.


The population in Westchester County is increasing at a rapid rate. Residents over 60 represent 20 percent of the total population or one in five people. It is estimated that one in four individuals in Westchester will be 60 and older by 2030. 


WJCS will help families in Westchester as they address the decisions and logistics involved in senior care as well as Alzheimer’s and related dementias. They recognize that caregivers play a significant role and often do not receive the vital support they need to best care for their loved one. They provide information and resources to help families manage financial and legal matters and offer free consultations to assist loved ones as they determine the best care options. WJCS support groups create a comfortable space in which caregivers can share their feelings and coping tips and feel less alone in what can be a very isolating experience. 


It can be devastating to witness what starts out as seemingly “normal” forgetfulness develop into severely impaired memory and an inability to perform daily activities of living and self-care. By providing families with guidance and support, WJCS aims to help loved ones grappling with their major caretaking challenges and sadness.


While the progression of Alzheimer’s varies from individual to individual, there are important steps to take as soon as a diagnosis is made:


• Contact an elder care attorney to discuss your financial planning and need for a power of attorney, will, and advanced directives.

• Connect your loved one to proper medical care including a gerontologist and a neurological team.

• Evaluate your home environment to ensure safety for your loved one.

• Be proactive and prepared for behavioral changes.

• Speak with your family, friends, and neighbors to seek emotional and practical support.

• Explore local resources


For more information and to arrange for a free consultation contact Gillian Rittmaster, LCSW, Assistant Executive Director of Jewish Programs at grittmaster@wjcs.com; 914-761-0600 ext. 2142.