Coming to Terms with a Dementia Diagnosis

Facing a dementia diagnosis can be a turbulent rollercoaster ride of emotions that, understandably, not many families are eager to board. “We at YourLife know all too well how devastating a dementia diagnosis can be for families,” says Danielle Buck, Director of Community Relations at YourLife™ of Stuart, a Memory Care community in Stuart, Florida. “But acknowledging and coming to terms with a diagnosis is vital to ensuring that the person with dementia receives proper care and emotional and physical support as their disease progresses. It also gives those in the earlier stages of dementia the opportunity to accomplish goals and make informed decisions regarding their future.” In this post, we’ll share tips to help your family process your grief and accept your loved one’s new reality. • Take time to grieve. Grieving the current and future losses of your loved one is healthy and necessary, and each family member should be given the time, space and resources they need to do so. Consider these tips for helping children understand and cope. The initial diagnosis can be overwhelming, and everyone’s reaction, emotions and process will vary. Understand that the journey from denial to acceptance of your loved one’s new normal will have its good days and difficult days. • Talk to someone who can help. Encourage your loved one and other family members to speak with a dementia professional, grief counselor or clergyperson. Your loved one’s doctor may be able to refer you to dementia support and education resources in your area. • Check out local and dementia support groups. Memory care communities and senior centers often host groups for family caregivers, spouses, and people with early- to mid-stage dementia. • Learn as much as possible about your loved one’s diagnosis. Knowledge truly is power. With a clear understanding of what your loved one’s dementia diagnosis means, you’ll be better equipped to face it – emotionally and logistically – and take the next steps to ensuring your loved one’s safety and well-being. Educate yourself, family members and loved one about their dementia’s various stages, symptoms, behaviors and unique care needs to help make the entire journey less overwhelming from the very beginning. Helping Your Loved One Cope:Give them time and space to express their grief, sadness, anger and any other sparked emotion.Acknowledge their concerns and fears. Ask what questions they have and research the answers. Be honest, but kind, and be prepared to offer solutions for you to consider together. • Enlist dementia counseling services. Depression is common in people with dementia diagnoses. Those in the early stages are very much aware of their declining cognitive and physical abilities, and they often struggle with the prospect of losing their sense of purpose, identity, independence and competency as an individual. If your loved one has severe depression or is battling other obstacles on the way to acceptance, a licensed dementia counselor can help your loved one work through their feelings and: o Feel less alone o Better understand their type of dementia o Accept and adapt to changes in abilities and lifestyles o Increase their capacity to manage daily symptoms and challenges o Feel optimistic about their ability to pursue a purposeful life • Reassure them that you will honor their long-term care, legal and financial wishes. Be sure to have those wishes legally documented in case someone other than you must carry out your loved one’s decisions in the future. • Make your loved one’s home a dementia-supportive space. Assure them that you will respect their independence for as long as it is safe to do so. AARP has a great checklist to get you started. • Introduce your loved one to others in similar stages of dementia. Senior centers and memory care communities often host memory cafés and other social gatherings for people with dementia and their families. • Encourage their sense of self and purpose. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or other dementia is often accompanied by uncertainty around one’s identity and life purpose. New challenges can cause the person to question their capabilities and, in turn, their identity. It’s also not uncommon for people with dementia to abandon old hobbies due to depression or fear of failure, or to avoid social activities because they are embarrassed by their changes. “It’s important to remind our loved ones that dementia does not define them, and also that their disease has many stages which can progress gradually,” says Danielle Buck from YourLifeTM of Stuart. “Many people can continue to enjoy active, rewarding lives for several years following a diagnosis.” For some people in the early stages of memory loss, meaning and purpose can be found in living as normally as possible while pursuing their familiar hobbies and interests. Others may be inspired to finally book their dream vacation or set out to accomplish other life-fulfilling goals while they have the ability to do so. Whatever your loved one’s passion and purpose, encourage them to keep at it. If their dementia has progressed beyond the early stages, try these tips for keeping them active, engaged and fulfilled. To learn how YourLife™ of Stuart helps families cope with dementia diagnoses, call our memory care experts at 772-212-2448. Designed for You. Defined by You. YourLife™ of Stuart was created with one purpose – to provide the most exceptional Memory Care and uplifting lifestyle for our residents. As Memory Care specialists, we focus all our energy, attention and resources on creating a community that caters to each resident’s personal needs, respects their choices and honors individuality while providing unmatched peace of mind and support for families. Because Memory Care is our sole focus, we have the unique ability to design and personally tailor plans around our residents. We see each resident as an individual, understanding that everyone has their own story, specific needs and retained abilities. With that information, we develop personally inspired care plans that value and support each person’s independence. Our team of attentive, caring YourLife™ Personal Care Specialists is on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week to assist with everyday activities, gentle reminders and redirection. Through our signature programming, YourStory, we create an individual experience centered around each resident. From cultural, educational and health and wellness programming, scheduled outings and other special events to personal care, assistance and multiple therapies, we create days with meaning. At YourLife™ of Stuart, our residents and families know that this is a community designed for you, with a lifestyle defined by you. Contact us to learn more! Call 772-212-2448.