The Center for Brain/Mind Medicine
Living Well With Neurologic Disease
Many things change with the onset of a neurologic or neurodegenerative disease. With support, you can influence the course of your disease and manage how you respond. You can live fully AND have a neurologic disease!
Keys to Healthy Living
Cognitive and functional changes have a powerful way of challenging one’s identity and sense of self. You may feel lost—no longer sure of who you are or your place in the world. Adjusting to cognitive changes is complicated. There’s no secret ingredient to making this adjustment, but research shows that some key factors are essential for healthy living and resilience.
Learn About Your Condition
One of the best ways to advocate for yourself is to do your homework and learn about your condition. Well-educated patients are better able to manage their health and actively participate in their care. Stick to national or international organizations for the most trusted information. If you don’t know where to look, ask a medical provider for a recommendation. Patient forums and support groups are great for many reasons, but it is important to join them when you have enough knowledge to identify misinformation.
Cognitive functioning is often deeply tied to one’s sense of self and personal identity. There can be a lot to grieve—career, community roles, and relationships, as well as expectations and hopes for the future. This grief process is often overlooked, because neurologic and cognitive changes are largely “invisible”—on the outside, a person may look the same and may mask cognitive deficits with hard work and compensatory strategies. Research has shown that working toward self-clarity after cognitive changes can ease the grief process and help you move toward acceptance.
You can improve your brain’s resilience to a neurologic disease by attending to lifestyle factors that promote brain health. Research has shown that what you eat and drink, how much you exercise, how well you sleep, the way you socialize, and how you manage stress are all critically important to your brain health.
Compensatory Skills & Strategies
Neurologic conditions can change how you carry out simple and complex tasks. Learning new compensatory skills and strategies means re-learning how to focus, manage time, problem-solve, make decisions, and support memory. This can significantly improve how you live with cognitive changes.
Relationships & Connection
Cognitive changes can significantly impact behavior and personality, and as a result, change relationships. Individuals with neurologic conditions are at increased risk for cognitive decline if they become isolated. Talking openly about your neurologic condition, identifying new ways to connect, and coming up with ideas for how friends and family can be supportive are some ways to maintain relationships. This can be difficult to do on your own—a therapist or counselor can help. Many people also forge new relationships in support groups and communities.
Valued living means engaging in behaviors that are consistent with personal values. Research shows that people are happier and live better when they feel connected to their values. Higher levels of valued living have been linked with improved well-being, quality of life, better psychosocial functioning, and lower psychological distress in neurologic and other chronic health conditions.