What To Do After a Dementia Diagnosis
A dementia diagnosis affects the entire family. Not only is the person with the diagnosis affected, but those close to them are also suddenly thrust into a whirlwind of emotions. Sometimes, a diagnosis offers a little insight and relief, and an explanation for why things have been “off” lately. Of course, there is also a feeling of grief, as well as worry about the future.
Here are some considerations to keep in mind as you navigate life after a dementia diagnosis in the family, or if you are simply looking for ways to support someone who is going through it.
Emotional Coping Skills and Strategies
Once you or your loved one have received a diagnosis of dementia, you might feel like you have to jump online to explore next steps or begin a long to-do list of tasks to accomplish. However, you will not be able to sustain this approach without first getting the emotional support you need. You’ll want to bolster your network of support with family members, friends, and experienced professionals. Here are a few ways you can do that:
Find a counselor or therapist that is experienced with your situation. Schedule weekly or monthly appointments and stick to them. You’ll find having someone to talk to who is unbiased and on your team is valuable during this difficult time.
Make an appointment with your primary care physician. It’s already a good habit to keep up with annual check-ups, but your own health care can often get put on the back burner once you are caring for a loved one with dementia. Let your physician know what’s happening and keep up communication with them, especially if you become more depressed or anxious than usual.
Tell a few close friends what is happening and what you need right now. It can feel overwhelming to keep a long list of people in the loop with what’s going on with your loved one, so keep your circle close. They can disseminate information to others if you’d like them to.
Start a gratitude journal. Write down three things you are thankful for each night or each morning. It is a simple practice that can make a big difference in your overall mental health during this time.
Keep your work supervisor informed. You’ll be under different stressors moving forward and you want to feel comfortable with your employment situation so that it doesn’t add to your list of tasks and responsibilities. An open and confidential conversation can go a long way for both of you.
It can be difficult to look to the future for what comes next with your loved one. While you don’t need to know every step of what the future holds, because it is different for everyone living with dementia, it is wise to begin taking small steps to ensure you are handling certain situations before they turn into crises.
Make an appointment with an elder law attorney to ensure your loved one’s estate is in order. This includes designating a Power of Attorney and establishing DNR wishes.
Make an appointment with your loved one’s financial planner. Review what has been happening and understand what the financial outlook is for the next years to come.
Begin exploring senior living communities. While you don’t necessarily need to move your loved one to a specialized memory care community right away, it is wise to begin understanding your options and touring communities.
If your loved one is a Veteran or a spouse, check out VA Aid & Attendance eligibility in order to explore potential ways to offset costs of senior care.
Advocating for Yourself or Your Loved One
Thanks to awareness and early screenings, people with dementia are being diagnosed earlier in the disease process. This means that the person can be actively involved in their own future planning, including advocating for their own needs and preferences. Ensure you are involving your loved one with decisions and planning, including touring senior living communities.
Resources and Support for Now and the Future
Finally, be sure you know the resources and support systems near you that can guide you through the next months and years.
Meals on Wheels can be a wonderful resource that supports nutrition needs.
Check with your local hospital to see if there are caregiving support groups or groups for those living with dementia.
Your village, city, or town will likely have a senior services branch that includes case management resources.
Check out senior centers for activities that your loved one might be interested in.
Explore public transportation and other transportation services that might come in handy.
At iNavigate, we are ready to be a part of your team as you explore your senior living and memory care options. Our services are free to you, and we are there to support you all the way through the move-in process and beyond. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.
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