A dementia diagnosis is tough for everyone, especially the person developing the disease. However, for every person with dementia, there are multiple loved ones who will be affected by the diagnosis. If you have a loved one suffering from memory loss or cognitive decline, there are a few things you can do to ease the way for yourself and your loved one.
Know What to Expect
As soon as you learn about the diagnosis, it’s comforting and could ease some of your worries to begin reading up on what to expect. This will help you to mentally prepare and give you time to plan for the future. There are different types of dementia, including vascular, frontotemporal, and mixed, as well as forms of dementia like Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia with Lewy bodies. In general, the stages are as follows:
Mild cognitive impairment – In this stage, the affected person may exhibit frequent signs of cognitive decline, including losing and forgetting things.
Mild dementia – Your loved one can still function independently during this phase, but it will become more difficult to take care of daily tasks.
Severe dementia – At this stage, it may be time to bring on full-time assistance. Simple activities like getting dressed, walking, and even swallowing will often become more difficult.
Outline Your Loved One’s Wishes
As early as possible, have a serious talk with your loved one about the future. You can work together to put everything in writing, including created advanced care directives. A living will outlines how medical care should be handled if your loved one becomes unable to make those decisions, and power of attorney will designate someone to act on that person’s behalf.
Plan Fun Activities
There’s a good health reason to stay physically active after a dementia diagnosis. Studies have linked high and moderate levels of physical activity to a reduction in cognitive decline. Outside of that, though, getting your loved one out and about creates great opportunities to spend time together. Focus on activities your loved one enjoys, such as shopping or taking daily walks at the park.
Caring for a loved one can become all-consuming. It’s important to take care of yourself, as well. That means eating healthy and staying active, and it also means putting time aside for social connections. Even a weekly lunch with friends can do wonders for your mental well-being. There are also support groups for caregivers, both online and in person in some areas, that can help you bond with others going through similar things.
Focus on the Disease
It can be frustrating to see your loved one change before your eyes, but it’s important to remember that dementia is a disease. If it were arthritis or cancer, you would see the physical effects instead of cognitive decline. If your loved one forgets who you are or exhibits anger, remember that they are going through a difficult cognitive change due to the disease. It can be easy or tempting to give up or get frustrated, but always keep in mind that your loved one is struggling as well and could also be frustrated.
Dementia is a difficult diagnosis, but with careful planning and a bit of love, it can become just a little easier on family members. Involving family members in care and reaching out to friends for support will bring a feeling of connection in a place that can be isolating. You can also seek professional care assistance, which can supplement the care you’re doing, giving you more time to run errands and engage in self-care activities. For more information on our memory care programs, contact us today.