According to the World Health Organization , dementia is a condition that causes continuous problems with memory functions like thinking, remembering, and changes in behavior. While everyone experiences forgetfulness on occasion, people diagnosed or living with Alzheimer’s or dementia experience these changes more often.
As time goes on, these changes in memory and behavior can get worse. While forgetfulness can be common amongst older adults, dementia is not a normal part of aging. However, there are nearly 10 million new dementia cases each year, with Alzheimer’s disease making up nearly 70% of all diagnoses. While each individual’s case is different, after you’ve been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, you might be thinking…now what?
You don’t have to wonder about that question alone. In this post, we’ll go through how you can cope with an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis.
For some adults, getting a diagnosis can be a long process. Noticing symptoms, scheduling appointments and tests can be an emotional process. While each person is different, once you finally receive a diagnosis, it’s not uncommon to experience a wide range of emotions, or even to feel numb. You might be wondering what living with Alzheimer’s or dementia is going to be like.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, here are a few of the most common emotions people with a dementia diagnosis have experienced:
• Anger- A dementia diagnosis can change the plans you had for your future. It’s natural to feel angry after a diagnosis, especially when you realize the course of the disease cannot be controlled. But there is still hope for a fulfilling life.
• A Sense of Loss- Realizing the direction of your life is not what you had anticipated can cause you to grieve over the plans you have lost.
• Denial- It might take some time to process the diagnosis. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed but it’s important to give yourself time to adjust.
• Relief- A diagnosis can validate concerns you about any symptoms you have been experiencing. You might feel relieved to know the changes you experienced were due to an illness.
• Isolation- Your diagnosis might make you feel isolated and different from those around you. While this feeling is expected, it’s important to know that you are not alone.
Processing your diagnosis can take some time. However, as you accept your diagnosis, you might find new ways to move forward while cultivating a fulfilling future for yourself and loved ones.
It’s important to find ways to take care of yourself both emotionally and physically. Journaling is a great way to identify how you’re feeling, while finding new ways to express yourself. Many communities have support groups that can make it easier for you to cope with an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis.
This can be a wonderful opportunity to build a support system to help you along your own dementia journey. While you work through your own emotions, you might be thinking about sharing the news of your diagnosis with family and friends.
It’s completely normal to be hesitant about sharing your diagnosis with your loved ones. But part of living with Alzheimer’s or dementia means sharing your story with your loved ones. However, as the disease progresses, it’s important to have support systems in place before you even need it.
Telling your family and friends will allow you to build your support system early on and will enable you to face challenges more easily. Remember, you don’t have to tell everyone at one time. You have the ability to choose who you want to tell and how to tell them. Here are a few tips to help you share the news when you’re ready:
• Think about who you want to share your diagnosis with first: You might choose to tell those who you feel closest to or who you spend the most time with. Part of this includes thinking about who you want to be supported by as the disease progresses.
• Go slowly: Sharing your diagnosis can be emotional. You aren’t obligated to talk about everything in one sitting. This can happen over time.
• Take educational brochures with you to begin your conversation: This can be a great way to learn about the disease with those that will be supporting you.
• Let people support you but tell them how you want to be supported: If you want to be supported in certain ways, like help with doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping, or cooking meals, it’s important to express this to your friends and family.
Once you receive a diagnosis, it’s important to think about a plan for your future. While the diagnosis can be overwhelming at first, eventually you will find a new normal. After all, there are plenty of people who live with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Here are a few ways you can start planning:
You might feel like you don’t have control over your disease, but you do have control over your health. It’s important to make regularly scheduled appointments with your primary care doctor or specialist like a neurologist or psychiatrist. Some adults living with dementia find changes in their sleep patterns.
If you experience these kinds of changes, there are non-drug treatments and medications available that will help improve your sleep. In addition, you might consider asking your doctor about clinical trials. Studying dementia through trials will help develop future treatments.
As your disease progresses, you might find it difficult to keep up with your day-to-day needs. You might consider hiring a caregiver to help you with housekeeping, medications, meals, and daily chores. If you need help finding a caregiver, you can contact your local Alzheimer’s Association for help with these services.
If you haven’t already, it might be helpful to make arrangements for all bills to be paid automatically. This will eliminate any chance of falling behind on your bills. Also, you might consider setting up direct deposit for any checks that you receive consistently.
Before your disease progresses, it’s crucial to make a financial plan for your future, especially if you live alone. This might include anything from taking inventory of your existing legal documents to making legal plans for your finances and property.
You might consider naming another person to make decisions on your behalf when you no longer can through a power of attorney. You can also put your wishes for medical treatment in a living will. In addition, it’s important you make estate plans through a standard will or living trust.
At Maplewood Senior Living, the health of our residents is our number one priority. That’s why we offer regularly scheduled support groups and activities for our residents living with Alzheimer’s or dementia. To learn more about our memory care near you, or to schedule a tour of our facilities, please contact us.
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