It can be overwhelming when you learn about your loved one’s dementia diagnosis. Dementia has no cure so it is easy to feel an immense sense of worry and despair. However, if you want to offer support it is important to stay level-headed. Here is a quick guide to dementia, and a few ways in which you can help your loved one cope with their diagnosis.
What is Dementia?
Dementia describes a group of diseases which cause memory loss and deterioration in mental, cognitive, and mobility functions. It mostly affects older adults but family history, ethnicity, heart health, and brain injury can increase the risk of dementia. The severity depends on the individual, the stage they are at, and the type of dementia they have.
Types of Dementia
There are many forms of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia and is a progressive memory disorder. It affects around 5.5 million Americans with symptoms appearing in individuals who are in their mid-60s. Lewy body dementia, vascular dementia, and frontotemporal dementia are all common types of dementia. It is also usual for an individual to have more than one form of dementia present in the brain. This is called mixed dementia.
Take Time to Grieve
A dementia diagnosis can be incredibly overwhelming and your loved one may need to time grieve. Being given bad news affects people in different ways and some may experience a number of emotions at first such as anger, sadness, and shock. Give your loved one the time to come to terms with their diagnosis but make sure they know you are there for them. Let them know that this diagnosis does not define them as a person. Remind them that they are still the same person they were before being given their diagnosis.
Adapt and Adjust
Depending on the stage of dementia, many people can still enjoy a high quality of life at home. Help them adapt to their diagnosis by checking their home and making a few adjustments where necessary. Small details such as installing brighter lights and creating more floor space can make a world of difference. In addition, leaving notes and reminders around the home can help them perform everyday tasks, while drawing up a daily routine to follow can help them get through the day easily.
Plan for the Future
Talking about the future can be daunting and you may want to avoid this sensitive topic in fear of upsetting your loved one. However, planning for the future can offer certainty in this worrying time, and give your loved one a sense of empowerment, too. In time, individuals with dementia may require extra care and support. Your loved one could benefit from being part of one of the many memory care communities across the U.S. A memory care unit offers specialized care for people with memory disorders. Residents live on-site, they are offered 24/7 care and they have access to healthcare professionals when needed. These units tailor their services to each resident and focus on maintaining and developing cognitive functions. Being part of a memory care community can offer safety and security for individuals with memory-related illnesses and peace of mind for their loved ones.
Help Them With Finances
No matter your age, keeping on top of finances can be a tedious task. Help your loved one out by going through their finances with them and settling this aspect of their life. Money can be a sensitive subject and not all people will appreciate this offer of help—no matter how close you are to them. Broach the subject with your loved one and if they are resistant, simply encourage them to spend some time managing their money by themselves. Keeping on top of their finances can help them prepare for potential future costs. These could include healthcare, changes in their living situation, and legal affairs.
Consider the Impact on Everyday Life
Dementia is progressive and so the impact it has on someone’s life can change over time. It affects judgment, behavior, sense of direction and time, physical ability, and the senses. The impact can affect activities in everyday life such as personal care, household chores, and cooking. In the worst-case scenario, dementia can greatly impact an individual’s quality of life and full-time care and supervision may be required. However, in the early stages, many individuals can maintain a good quality of life in their own home. As a loved one, by offering assistance where possible, you can help them transition into their new situation.