If your loved one has just been diagnosed with dementia you may feel stunned, knowing that the condition is life-changing – it is never easy on a family. It can feel frightening. You may wonder what the next steps should be.
Dementia is progressive in nature, but as you gain knowledge about the condition, and as you set some plans in place, it can help make the process smoother, and it will enable you to provide the best care for your loved one.
Here are important starting points for you if your loved one has recently received a dementia diagnosis:
Learn About Dementia
Many of us have heard the term dementia in our lifetimes, but until we deal with it personally, we often misunderstand what it is.
For example, dementia is not a disease. It is a term that describes a bundle of symptoms that are caused by a loss of healthy brain nerve cells. Dementia is brought on through diseases, such as the cognitive-damaging disease Alzheimer’s, and in some cases through a series of strokes. Alzheimer’s accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases.
Learn as much as possible about dementia. Start with our blogs, such as What Does Dementia Mean?, which also explains the many causes of dementia and the most common symptoms. Visit our Signs, Symptoms, and Science of Dementia blog library to learn more.
Medical Team & Treatment
An important step has happened – your loved one’s symptoms have been diagnosed. Your loved one is now under the care of a physician and a medical team.
Get to know the medical team. Understand which, if any, dementia treatments are prescribed. You will need legal access in your state, through patient authorization, to obtain knowledge of the treatments and medical decisions. This knowledge will help you properly care for your loved one.
Know that there is no cure for dementia, but some treatments can improve symptoms and may help to slow down the progression of the condition.
Learn About the Behaviors of Dementia
Know that your loved one may not understand that they are ill. If they are in the early stage of dementia, they may be fully aware of their illness, but later they may go into a state of denial. This can affect their behavior.
As caregivers, part of our role is to recognize behaviors that indicate symptoms that something is going on other than the dementia itself, such as an illness, or discomfort.
We must understand the many behavior changes that occur with dementia, such as aggression and hallucinations, and how to manage them, and learn the common ailments, conditions, and symptoms that come with dementia.
Safety in the home is key to the protection of your loved one’s life.
People with dementia struggle with cognitive functions such as understanding and remembering instructions, and as dementia advances, the patient’s ability to interpret the world and make sound decisions declines.
Your loved one recently diagnosed with dementia is likely in the early stage of the condition, but now is the time to plan for home safety – whether or not they reside in the same home as you.
Room-by-room home safety is a key starting point. Danger can be found in clutter, uneven flooring, stairwells, and poor lighting.
Know the danger zones, and have a plan in place for emergencies, such as mapping out how to exit the home in case of fire. Eliminate access to objects of danger, such as medications, appliances, tools, sharp objects, and dangerous chemicals.
Look for dangers outside the home. Much of this process rests upon whether the person with dementia is still independent – if they are able to care for themselves daily, or if they are able to drive. Dangerous areas outside of the home living space typically include poor outdoor lighting, basements, garages, storage building, and elements in the yard.
Learn About Caregiving and Take Care of You First
One of the most important aspects of caregiving is that you take care of yourself first! This may seem counterintuitive, however, if you do not take care of your own mental and physical well-being, you may fail at taking care of your loved one with dementia. Caregiving is a tough job! It is stressful and it can wear a person down to caregiver burnout in a heartbeat.
Do you know what stress looks like in a caregiver? Our Caregiver Stress Check will help you recognize the symptoms.
Routine is one of the most important elements of successful caregiving, and it is also beneficial to the individual with dementia. Lack of routine can lead to agitation and fear in individuals with dementia, and this makes the job of caregiving much more difficult.
It takes planning to set a routine, and this typically means setting a schedule. Schedules are vital for caregivers, whether one is part-time or provides around-the-clock care.
Develop a Support System
Reach out to support systems in your area and develop a support network. In our blog post Round Rock Elderly Care Organizations, you will find links to support systems surrounding our location. If you are not in the Round Rock, Texas area, you can use our examples as a tool to find similar support systems in your area.
Remember that respite and adult care are very important to your well-being as a caregiver. These are crucial resources and support systems for you!
Organize Financial and Legal Matters
Planning for the future includes both current and future home safety, including where your loved one will reside, but legal and financial matters must also be organized. It is best to start this organizational effort as early as possible to ensure a smooth process as time goes by.
Common items to start organizing include banking information, insurance policies, income information, Medical Power of Attorney, Directives to Physicians, Financial Power of Attorney, and more (see our blog post Planning Ahead-Financial and Legal Considerations).
Incorporate a Family Approach
Dementia affects the entire family, not just the loved one that is ill.
Not everyone in the family will understand or accept the illness the same way or at the same time. But, if at all possible, incorporate the entire family when establishing the care and treatment plan. It will help to support a successful situation for everyone involved, including the loved one who has dementia.
At Sundara Senior Living, we are dedicated to providing a true family level of care. Our staff specializes in memory care, creating a smoother transition for the entire family at any stage of the disease process.
We strive to ensure comfort and care for your loved one while offering a true peace of mind for the family.
Visit us online today and arrange a tour, come meet the Sundara Family!