A dementia diagnosis is often a difficult time for the person being diagnosed and their loved ones. You might not know the next steps to take. This guide helps you know what to do next to handle the initial aftermath of the diagnosis and do everything you can to slow the progression of dementia.
Whether you suspected you or a loved one had dementia, hearing it confirmed can be overwhelming and emotional. You might feel scared, angry or sad. You might worry about how your future will look with dementia.
Whatever you feel is normal. Everyone handles a medical diagnosis differently. Letting yourself feel those emotions is a healthy part of moving forward. If the feelings are overwhelming, reach out to loved ones or professional counselors to help you process them. Journaling about your feelings can also help you process what you're feeling.
When people talk about dementia, they often think of Alzheimer's, but there are other types of dementia. These include vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia and Lewy body dementia. When you're diagnosed, learn as much as possible about your specific type of dementia. Explore the symptoms and progression of your type to better understand what to expect. Ask about medications, clinical trials and therapies you might qualify for that could slow the progression. This information helps you plan what to do next.
Going through dementia is easier when you have a strong support network. Start with your loved ones. Keeping them in the loop on your diagnosis and letting them know how they can support you can help them feel empowered.
You might also turn to support groups to surround yourself with people who understand. If you're a loved one or caregiver of a person with dementia, you can find many caregiver support groups that may help you navigate the diagnosis.
You might need some time to process the diagnosis, but then it's time to make a plan for your care. You might see a variety of specialists for dementia, including a geriatrician or neurologist. Geriatricians have training specific to the diseases and conditions that are common in older adults. Neurologists focus on all parts of the nervous system and usually receive training in dementia.
Find a medical team you trust and work with them to explore your intervention options. There are some medications, such as cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine, that can help improve your dementia symptoms short-term. Occupational therapy can help you navigate your home safely to prevent falls or accidents. Clinical trials might also be an option, depending on what's available.
Your care team might also recommend lifestyle changes that could slow the progression of your symptoms. Exercising, eating a brain-healthy diet, sleeping well and keeping stress levels under control might help. You might also incorporate activities that are mentally stimulating, such as learning a new skill.
If you or your loved one plans to stay in their home for now, making changes to it can create a safer environment for someone with dementia. Some examples include:
These changes can reduce the risk of falls, help remember important tasks and prevent wandering. However, as the disease progresses, these things might not be enough. It's often not possible for someone with dementia to remain at home alone indefinitely.
Evaluate the symptoms and situation right now to determine the safest living option for the present. In the early stages, it might be possible to stay at home with changes to the environment. You might need a full-time caregiver, either a family member or a home health service, to help you stay safe at home.
Eventually, you might need to move to a memory care community. They're designed to offer as much independence as possible while keeping residents safe. When choosing a memory care community, look at the security features, which usually include secured doors and constant monitoring. Look for comfortable surroundings and options for seniors to explore while remaining safe. For instance, the memory care community at Autumn View Gardens features a secure outdoor space with beautiful landscaping and continuous walking paths.
Visiting memory care communities in the early stages of dementia allows you to take more of a role in where you live when the disease progresses. Some people choose to move to memory care in the early stages. The stimulating environment, socialization and activities designed for people with dementia may help slow the progression.
A dementia diagnosis doesn't mean your life is over. Continue doing the things you enjoy and spending time with the people you love. You can continue making memories with those important people, and you can find joy and meaning despite your diagnosis. Staying engaged and active in life offers mental stimulation, which could ease your cognitive decline.
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