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Dementia Diagnosis

Five steps to take after a loved one has gotten a dementia diagnosis

A diagnosis of dementia can be devastating, not only to the patient, but also to the family. The idea that someone you love may begin to slip away can be frightening and overwhelming. It’s hard to know where to begin to plan for the challenges that lie ahead. Here are some tips that can help.

  1. Begin to develop a support system of family and friends who will be able to help with the demands of caring for a loved one with dementia. Make a list of people you can call to help when the need arises —this could be as simple as driving them to a doctor appointment to having someone spend the weekend tending to their needs. Find a support group in your area of people who are going through the same thing you are. Developing a strong support system will help ensure you have the time you need to take care of yourself, including eating right, getting enough exercise and sleep, and maintaining your social life.
  2. Get your loved one the medical help they need to continue to lead a purposeful life. Once a diagnosis of dementia has been made, if you haven’t already, you’ll probably want to see a neurologist, who is trained to diagnose and treat dementia. Although there is no known cure, there are several treatments available that may slow the symptoms. You may also want to enlist the services of a clinical neuropsychologist, who can assist with rehabilitation strategies, document cognitive strengths and weaknesses, and track the progression of the disease over time.
  3. Have your loved one make legal decisions while they’re still able. Your loved one should establish durable powers of attorney for both their medical and financial needs. When you make a medical power of attorney, your loved one appoints someone to make medical decisions of their behalf should they become too ill to speak for themselves. This is best combined with a living will or health care declaration that provides specific written instructions on what medical treatments are desired in various situations (e.g., do you want to be artificially fed if you’re in a vegetative state?). A financial power of attorney gives someone the authority to handle financial transactions on your loved one’s behalf.
  4. Become educated about the disease and what changes you can expect as the disease progresses. This will help you plan ahead as much as possible. Share this information with other family members, friends and coworkers, so they understand what is going on and can anticipate your loved one’s needs as well as your needs.
  5. Never lose sight of the person you love. No matter how the disease affects your loved one, it is important to treat them with dignity and respect. You will certainly see changes that may make it seem like you are losing them, but remember that they still have a need for companionship and belonging. Engage them in activities and interactions that bring them — and you — a sense of joy and celebration. Focus on the abilities that remain. This will go a long way in adding to the both your and your loved one’s quality of life and help them maintain a sense of self.

Alzheimer’s Disease Fact Sheet | Alzheumer’s Disease Genetics Fact Sheet


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