Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Five steps to take following a dementia diagnosis

 Five steps to take following a dementia diagnosis

A diagnosis of dementia is one of the most heartbreaking things you can hear about a loved one, forcing you to face the reality that their life will soon change drastically, deteriorating to the point where they might not even know who you are any more. 

However, there are certain preparations you can make in order to reduce the trauma caused by dementia as much as possible, both for the yourself and your family, and the person with the illness. To help to make things a bit easier for you at this difficult time, here is some information about dementia, along with five steps to take following a dementia diagnosis. 

What is Dementia?

Firstly, let us consider what dementia is and what a diagnosis of this condition means. Dementia is not one specific illness; rather, it is an umbrella term used to describe a number of progressive conditions affecting the brain. The most common types of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, and frontotemporal dementia, however, there are over 200 different subtypes of dementia. It is an age-related condition commonly associated with people over the age of 65, but certain types of dementia, such as alcohol-related brain damage, can affect younger people, too. 

Though the term dementia describes many different subtypes, there are several common symptoms. You may begin to notice difficulties with memory – the person with the condition might forget recent events or repeat things several times, for example, but have no trouble with remembering events from years ago. 

Some types of dementia can also affect personality and behavior – a normally placid and friendly person might become uncharacteristically aggressive, for instance. If you have noticed such changes in either yourself or someone close to you, it is important that you consult a medical practitioner. A diagnosis will enable you to plan ahead and prepare yourself both mentally and practically for the challenge of coping with dementia.

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Educate Yourself

Hearing that yourself or someone you love has been diagnosed with dementia can understandably be a scary and upsetting time, bringing to mind the anticipation of drastic changes ahead and the reality of ‘losing’ a person mentally before their physical death. 

However, there are some misconceptions about dementia and to assuage your anxiety about what lies ahead it is important that you educate yourself about the condition as much as possible. Your healthcare provider or a specialist dementia charity, such as the Alzheimer’s Association, will be able to provide you with information and support. 

Create a Care Plan

A person with dementia will likely require additional assistance in carrying out their day-to-day activities, due to memory difficulties and physical decline. You might decide to take on the responsibility of becoming the primary carer for a loved one with dementia. 

If this is the case, ensure that you have plenty of support on hand to help you to manage this often stressful and sometimes overwhelming role. A nurse who specializes in dementia, for example, can give you some respite while also providing you with further information and techniques to use when caring for a person with dementia. 

Consider a Senior Living Facility

Deciding to place a loved one with dementia into a residential facility can understandably be a huge decision that is often packed with guilt. However, the person’s condition may deteriorate to a point at which you are unable to care for them alone without serious risk to your own mental and physical health. If this is the case, look for senior living near me

A senior living facility will have medical professionals on site, along with registered nurses who specialize in caring for people with dementia, so you can rest assured that your loved one will receive the best kind of specialist care. Additionally, many senior living facilities work hard to ensure that residents live as independently as possible, offering many social activities such as communal dining and enrichment programs to make sure that life remains enjoyable and stimulating. 

Make Changes to the Home

If it is decided that the person with dementia can cope with living in their own home for the time being, you should assess their property and make any alterations that will help them to navigate their home. Dementia affects memory, and as such the person with the condition may experience difficulties in moving around their home and carrying out everyday household tasks such as washing up and finding the saucepans. 

To help a person continue with their daily routine, useful tools could include adding signs and labels to help them to navigate around their home, and keeping essential objects in one place. You should also ensure that pathways are free from clutter to prevent falls, and you could perhaps leave the bathroom light on during the night or add a nightlight to help the person see where they are going should they need to use the bathroom. 

Create a Life Story 

As their condition progresses, the personal with dementia might begin to feel increasing isolated from the world around them, experiencing difficulties in memory and perception that can be frightening and disorientating. A ‘Life Story’ can be a particularly useful tool to help families and health care professionals communicate with the person with dementia. 

A Life Story pieces together important things from a person’s history to create a biography for that person and demonstrate who they are outside of their condition. Photographs are important elements of a Life Story, but try to choose objects that reach all a person’s senses. 

A favorite perfume worn when the person was a teenager, for example, or a playlist of favorite songs that brings them back to dancing on their wedding night. As well as providing an important communication tool, a Life Story will also provide a hugely important memory of that person for their family when they have passed away: they are remembered for who they are as an individual rather than a dementia patient. 

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