When someone you love is diagnosed with dementia, there will naturally and perfectly understandably be a multitude of questions you and your loved one will have, some of which there will not be a definitive answer to, certainly not in the early stages.
Here are five tips for dealing with a loved one’s dementia diagnosis.
1. The Process of Accepting the Diagnosis
Even though you will be feeling a range of conflicting and contrasting emotions, obviously, the most important person who needs to accept the diagnosis is your loved one themselves. If the beginnings of dementia have been detected early enough, this will give them more time to process the diagnosis but, more importantly, will give you more time to be as compassionate and supportive as possible in helping them come to terms with their situation.
Denial is the most common emotion felt by a person immediately afterward and for the first few weeks and is often used as a coping mechanism. Other reasons to deny their situation could be that they may not even have noticed any symptoms of their neurological disease, or it could be the social stigma and connotations associated with the term.
2. Assisting With Everyday Household Chores
Ideally, your loved one should remain in their own home in familiar and comfortable surroundings for as long as possible. However, this can only be possible if they are still able to live relatively independently and have regular caregivers like yourself who are always on hand to help. In the early stages of a dementia diagnosis, it is exceedingly likely that they will need little to no help for a few months. Remember that everyone is entirely different, and therefore the dementia disease will progress entirely different for each person.
If or indeed, when the time comes for you and other caregivers to step in and assist your loved one inside their home, it is vitally important to support them and help them to maintain their skills, abilities, and social life as this is the best way to maintain a high quality of life. There is a plethora of ways you can help, including shopping trips, gardening, and outdoor maintenance, washing, and ironing, walking the dog or feeding any pets, and meal preparation.
3. Planning for the Future
The sooner you can talk with your loved one about future arrangement after their dementia diagnosis, the better, both for themselves and for you and other family members. Planning for the future can involve some difficult and direct questions and conversations;however, it is far better to initiate these kinds of discussions earlier rather than later as that way, your loved one is in sole control of their own future, finances, and life.
Such difficult topics you may need to discuss with your loved one may include long-term care planning, which can be provided in their own home, your or another family member’s home, or at an outside facility. Financial planning is also an important consideration that naturally needs to be handled as sensitively as possible, and documents need to be created, signed, and legally documented which clearly and concisely communicated the financial wishes of your loved one.
The third most important future planning centers around your loved one’s future health care plans, specifically advance directives that outline their medical treatment and care preferences in the event that they are unable to make decisions at the time. Again, these conversations should be approached as pragmatic and as positively as possible and should take at least as much time as you can to ensure less distress and upset to both your loved one and yourself.
4. Assisted Living Communities
Assisted living communities, such as the professional, experienced, and established Belmont Village, are the most practical solution for when it is no longer feasible for your loved one who is suffering from dementia to independently reside in their own home.
Your loved one’s daily life would begin like any other day, as the emphasis in assisted living communities is always to ensure a high quality of life that is as normal as possible for every individual resident and the community. If your loved one requires or will require later down the line assistance with daily tasks such as bathing, dressing, or grooming, trained medical staff will be onsite to assist them whatever their needs. If your loved one requires no outside help, they are left alone in the privacy of their own apartment. Breakfast is served either communally, or if your loved one would prefer, on their own in their apartment, and after breakfast, your resident can choose exactly what they would like to do with their morning in the same way as they always have before. Assisted living facilities offer a range of social excursions and activities, and your loved one will be spoilt for choice.
5. The Progression of Your Loved One’s Dementia
No matter what the form of dementia, unfortunately and heartbreakingly, the disease is a progressive one, and, over time, your loved one’s symptoms will become more severe and more noticeable.
The rate at which dementia progresses is entirely dependent on the individual and therefore is basically unpredictable. It may be useful to you and your loved one to view dementia as a disease of three separate stages of progression. In the early stages of dementia, your loved one will remain largely independent and will only need the very basic level of assistance with their daily living chores, if any at all. It would be incredibly useful at this stage to create a personalized routine for your loved one during this initial stage. The middle stage of dementia is when signs and symptoms become considerably more noticeable, and your loved one may well need more assistance in their day-to-day life. In the latter stage of dementia, your loved one will require full-time care in time, which is when assisted living communities are usually the best way to proceed.