Receiving a dementia diagnosis is a life-changing event. There’s life before the diagnosis...and life after the diagnosis. Whether you’re the one who’s been diagnosed with dementia or the loved one of someone with the disease, the news can be jarring, disruptive and difficult.
“You may be feeling a wide variety of emotions when you or a loved one receive a dementia diagnosis,” says Cindy Wirth, Executive Director of Bridges® by EPOCH at Sudbury, a memory care assisted living community in Sudbury, MA. “The first thing to remember is that whatever you’re feeling is completely natural, and you should give yourself grace to process the emotions and feelings that are coming up at this time. The second thing to remember is that a diagnosis of dementia does not mean ‘the end’ of a happy, healthy and fulfilled life.”
If You’ve Been Diagnosed with Dementia
If you have recently received a dementia diagnosis, it’s normal to feel a wide range of feelings and emotions, including depression, anger, fear, denial, loneliness, loss and frustration.
“Dementia is a life-changing situation, but it doesn’t have to mean that the life you know and love has to change immediately,” says Cindy. “There are many avenues available to you to help cope with your new diagnosis and move forward in a way that benefits you, your family and other loved ones. The better prepared you are and the more knowledge you have about your situation, the better prepared you will be to manage the changes and pitfalls of the disease and set yourself up for a fulfilled and happy lifestyle, both now and in the future.”
Take care of your physical needs.
One of the best things you can do for yourself following a dementia diagnosis is to remain physically healthy. Regular exercise, a healthy diet and getting enough sleep are some of the best tools in your toolbox to help delay and reduce the symptoms of dementia. Get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day; eat a diet filled with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats; and stick to a regular sleep schedule.
Visit your doctor on a regular basis.
Getting regular check-ups from professionals who are experienced in dealing with dementia and geriatric health issues will ensure you’re receiving the best assistance possible. By staying in touch with your doctors, you’ll be better able to fend off health issues before they become serious. Take any medication as prescribed and follow your doctor's orders to maintain the highest quality of life possible.
Join a support group.
By connecting with others who are living with the disease, you’ll feel less alone, be more connected to a community and find ways to help manage and life with the difficulties and realities of dementia. You can join an in-person group or look to online groups that can connect you to other individuals around the globe.
Share your feelings with friends and family,
While a dementia diagnosis can seem isolating, remember to stay connected to the people who matter most to you. Continue to share your feelings with friends and family, and let them know how they can help and support you during this difficult time.
Get ahead of the disease.
Being prepared for what’s ahead will help you remain as independent as possible. Know when your best times of day are, and perform the most difficult tasks during those times. If you feel yourself becoming frustrated or upset, take a break or ask someone for assistance – there’s no shame in asking for help. Write down your appointments, tasks and medication schedules in a visible place so there’s very little guesswork about what needs to happen and when. The better prepared you can be and the more organized you can make your life, the longer you will be able to live independently.
Do as much as you can for as long as you can.
A dementia diagnosis doesn’t mean that everything in your life has to change or that your day to day life will need to completely shift. Find ways to keep participating in your favorite activities and hobbies, and plan for the future as much as possible. Begin conversations with loved ones about your wishes for your future care, living situation and treatments. You may also wish to begin looking into different housing arrangements in the event that you will need to move into memory care.
If You Are the Loved One of Someone who Has Been Diagnosed with Dementia
Dementia doesn't just affect the life of the individual with the disease. It also affects family members to the point that they are considered the “second victims” of dementia. If you’re a loved one of someone who’s been diagnosed with dementia, especially if you find yourself as the primary caregiver for your loved one, you will need to actively seek out support and resources to help you through this journey. Dementia can be a lonely, isolating disease for caregivers, who will end up shouldering more and more of the day-to-day tasks to help their loved one live as safely and comfortably as possible. Here are some tips for helping make sure you care for yourself as well as your loved one:
The following tips concern the caregiver himself/herself:
Take care of your own physical and mental needs.
Remember that in order to the best possible caregiver to your loved one, you need to care for yourself as well. Be sure to get enough regular exercise, eat right and spend time each day doing something nice for yourself. Neglecting your own needs leads to caregiver burnout.
Educate yourself on the disease.
By understanding what you’re up against, you’ll be better prepared to handle the challenges of dementia and what difficulties are in store for you and your loved one. Knowledge is power, and being equipped with the right tools will make you a better caregiver.
Be kind to your loved one.
Remember that what is happening to your loved one isn’t their fault. While it’s hard to see the person you love slip away, understand that these are symptoms of the disease and not a reflection of who your loved one is as a person.
Talk to others who understand.
Being a caregiver is difficult, and the only people who truly understand what you’re going through are those who are walking the same path. Look for caregiver support groups, both in-person or online, where you can spend time gathering information, getting advice and feeling heard. Sometimes simply knowing you’re not alone is enough to help you through the difficult times.
Bridges® by EPOCH at Sudbury provides exceptional memory care in a comfortable, upbeat and engaging environment. Designed specifically to support people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, Bridges® by EPOCH creates a wellness-focused lifestyle that respects individual preferences. Our teams receive ongoing, specialized training so they may help residents to safely exercise their independence and individuality in a secure, calm environment.
Dedicated Memory Care
We provide complete peace of mind for families and residents experiencing early-, mid- or late-stage memory loss. Our expert dementia care, Personalized Services and personalized programs are tailored to meet the physical, cognitive and emotional needs of each resident wherever they are on their journey, allowing them to age in place safely, comfortably and with respect.
Welcoming, Purpose-Built Design
Bridges® by EPOCH at Sudbury is more than a safe, beautiful place to live; it’s truly a home, where compassionate, dementia-educated caregivers help people with memory loss live more joyful lives and where families enjoy spending time together again. Our research-based design features soft lighting and colors, non-glare flooring, directional cues, aromatherapy and interactive life-enrichment stations that empower residents to comfortably move about their homes with confidence.
Contact us today to learn more.