Dementia diagnosis – what next?
When you receive a dementia diagnosis, there are many questions and many worries and fears. You will probably be feeling some very strong emotions including shock, anger, sadness and fear of the future. It is important to remember all of these and a vast range of other emotions are perfectly normal.
The following article was written to help you deal with the initial challenges that you will be confronted with following an initial diagnosis of dementia.
Have you got someone to talk to?
When you have been diagnosed with dementia having somebody to talk to and confide in is vitally important. Many people have always relied on their parents to provide this support and at this time you are the one who needs support.
So you will need somebody to help you whether it’s your spouse, partner, children, best friend or counsellor you must have somebody you can talk openly and honestly to. Somebody that will allow you to share your innermost fears and feelings.
Have you told the people who need to know?
There are lots of people that will need to know about your diagnosis, some of them will be friends and family but there will also be a number of agencies that you will need to contact.
For example the DVLA, it is important that you let them know, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will have to give up driving immediately. But they need to know!
What are you entitled to?
Following a diagnosis of dementia may mean you may be entitled to access help or support. This may be in the form of financial assistance, allowances, care from the local authority or even equipment to make your home safer or more accessible.
Even if it is early in your dementia journey and you don’t need the support it is worth finding out what you may be entitled to later on. Speak to your GP, your Local Authority, and research on the internet to make sure you know what you are entitled to.
Have you made a will?
All adults should have an up-to-date will that reflects their wishes and ensures that in an uncertain future their estate is managed correctly. This does not change because of a diagnosis of dementia but it should prompt you to take action quickly.
You will hopefully still be able to make your will in the early stages, but you cannot be certain how long that capacity will last. You must take action whilst you still can and get a will written.
Do you need a Power of Attorney?
Needing a Power of Attorney is not restricted to people living with dementia, or indeed any other life-limiting condition. However, again a diagnosis of dementia should be a clear indication that you should get this completed.
The idea of having a Power of Attorney is that during your dementia journey you are going to need help with certain decisions. You may feel that this is a long way off following an initial diagnosis but things have a way of catching up on us.
It is important that the right person or people are chosen, somebody you trust to make the correct decisions on your behalf. It is also important to remember that appointing an attorney does nothing until you need decisions to be made on your behalf and you will continue to do things for yourself until such time as you lose the capacity to make them for yourself.
Do you want to make an advanced decision or a living will?
Despite the best efforts of a power of attorney, it is possible that your relatives will make a decision that you would not have made yourself. The only way to ensure that your wishes are followed is to write down what you want to happen in the future. It is known as a living will or an advanced decision. It is where people put down in writing what treatments or interventions they want in the future. It allows them to refuse CPR, hospital admissions or any other treatments.
There is plenty of information on the internet on how to do this so do some research and take control of the future.
Are you looking after your health?
After a diagnosis of dementia people often feel a real sense of loss of faith and believe there is nothing they can do. It is true, there is no current cure for dementia but that doesn’t mean there is no hope.
There is still a great deal of things people can do to slow down their dementia and maintain the quality of their lives for as long as possible. This starts with living as healthy a lifestyle as possible.
It’s important to eat a healthy and balanced diet, cut back on alcohol, stop smoking, increase intake of vegetables, reduce consumption of meat (especially the processed meat) and take regular exercise.
Some people think this is the wrong time to start making sacrifices, but there is much evidence to prove that such lifestyle choices make a genuine difference and really can slow down the progress of dementia and make you feel better for longer.
After the shock
It is an obvious shock when you receive a dementia diagnosis and nothing can prepare you for that or indeed soften the blow. But once that shock has subsided it is vital that you use it as a catalyst for action.
Take care of the things listed above so that you are in the best position to deal with the challenges you will face in the future, but there also some other priorities.
You need to live your life to the full and enjoy the good years you have left whilst you can. Write down things they would like to do, it might just be the time for you to start thinking about all the things you want to do.
Often people find that they learn to live in the moment and make a conscious decision to enjoy themselves and make the most of the time they have left.
When dementia progresses, it might be advisable to consider if you are safe living on your own at home or whether to consider finding a suitable dementia care home.