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A dementia diagnosis can be devastating, but it can help to remember there is power in being aware of the diagnosis and having the chance to plan. In fact, immense amounts of future stress and heartache can be avoided by making plans with your loved one now.

“A big benefit of early diagnosis is that the person has time to consider their options and make informed decisions about their future,” says Jillian Castellano, Community Relations Director at YourLife™ of Coconut Creek, a Memory Care community in Coconut Creek, Florida. “Documenting and discussing their wishes with their family helps ensure wishes will be honored.”

In this post, we’ll discuss 6 things you and your loved one can do now to make your journey smoother following a dementia diagnosis.

1. Have “The Talk” with Your Parent
Frank conversations about your loved one’s changing abilities, financial matters and future care options can be difficult, but they are crucial.
• Before you approach your loved one, know what you want to talk about and have possible resolutions ready to suggest. For example:
o If it’s getting dangerous for them to drive, express specific reasons why you think so and be prepared to provide alternate transportation services – or offer your own – that will allow them to maintain independence. If they resist, ask if they’ll take a driver’s test.
o If you think it’s time for a memory care community, have literature ready for your loved one to read and explain why you think they would thrive in one of the communities you suggest. Offer to take them for a tour of the communities.
• Broach conversations when you both have plenty of time to talk. Choose a quiet setting with no distractions.
• Approach the topics gradually and with sensitivity.
• Listen carefully to your parent’s concerns and fears.
• Be flexible. Your loved one may have their own plausible solutions you can both agree on.

Remember, you won’t decide everything in one meeting. Prioritize and stick to the topics to keep the conversation productive, and if anyone becomes overwhelmed, upset or frustrated, take a break and revisit the conversation when everyone is calm.

Read More: Decades of Love & Delicate Conversations

2. Get Paperwork in Order
Seniors who legally document their financial and future care wishes make it much easier for their families to honor them.
• Ask your loved one to choose a durable power of attorney whom they trust.
• Have them take stock of their assets and create a will or trust.
• Meet with a financial planner to create a plan that will protect funds for future long-term care needs. A planner can also help your loved one take advantage of all resources available to them, including VA Aid & Attendance benefits for eligible wartime veterans and spouses, investment funds, long-term care insurance, Medicare and more.
• Review treatment options with your loved one and establish a care plan with their medical team. Have them assign a healthcare proxy and complete an advance directive and POLST/MOLST form.
• Meet with an elder law attorney to have all documents legalized and on file. Make copies for your loved one, yourself and other key family members.

Read More: Estate Planning 101: Protecting Wallets & Wishes

3. Create a Dementia-Friendly Living Environment
Make your loved one’s home a safe, dementia-supportive space that maximizes their independence. AARP has a great checklist to help you properly assess the obvious and not-so-obvious indoor and outdoor features that could pose safety hazards to someone with dementia.

Read More: Creating A Safe Place for Your Loved One With Dementia

4. Learn as Much as Possible About Your Loved One’s Diagnosis
Familiarizing yourself with the stages (early, middle and late), symptoms, behaviors, and unique care needs of your loved one’s dementia will help you recognize changes and better prepare you to deal with them, both logistically and emotionally.

5. Find Support and Resources
• Check out your local adult day memory care programs, home care and companion services, and dementia caregiver support groups.
• Form a support network with family members or friends who can share caregiving responsibilities.

6. Think About Long-Term Care
There’s no such thing as a standard rate of stage progression, so it’s always good to know your options.

“Exploring long-term care options in the earlier stages of dementia may seem premature,” says Castellano, “but it gives your loved one the chance to choose their own future living arrangements and, should an emergency arise, your family won’t have to make a rushed decision you might regret later.”

If you plan to care for your loved one in your home, there are many things to consider:
• Is your home set up to support someone with dementia? Is there a suitable bedroom and a bathroom with a shower on the first floor? Can it accommodate a wheelchair or walker if necessary?
• Are you physically able to assist with bathing or mobility? Will you be able to sustain the physicality of eldercare for what could be several years?
• Will your loved one require advanced medical care or more of your time and energy than you are equipped to give?
• If professional care is needed, will you be comfortable having caregivers visit your home?

If you think professional, residential memory care may be needed:
• Research several memory care communities online. If you can, try to choose communities that are close to you or other family members so visiting will be easier.
• Present your favorites to your loved one.
• Visit the communities that interest your loved one.
• Schedule a time to take a guided tour so you will have the community representative’s full attention and won’t be rushed.
• If possible, take your loved one, a sibling or other decision-maker with you and ask questions.
• At each community, be observant and take careful notes to compare later and share with your loved one and other family members. Do you feel welcome? How does the staff interact with residents and guests? Are the programs designed to benefit those with memory loss? Are residents actively engaged or socializing? Do they seem happy and well cared for? Would your parent be safe, healthy and happy there?

“Preparing for the eventual loss of memory and abilities can be emotional and difficult for families,” says Castellano, “but having a good idea of what to expect and having a plan in place allows families to relax and enjoy the time they have together now without worrying about the ‘what ifs.’”

Inspiring Memory Care Designed for You. Defined by You.
YourLife™ of Coconut Creek was created to provide the most exceptional Memory Care and uplifting lifestyle for our residents. 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 understand that each resident is an individual that has their own story, specific needs and retained abilities, so 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 provide assistance with everyday activities, gentle reminders and redirection.

With YourStory, our signature programming, we create an individual experience centered around each resident. From cultural, educational and holistic health and wellness programming, outings and an array of other special events to personal care, assistance and therapies, we create days with meaning. At YourLife™ of Coconut Creek, 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 us at 954-228-6252 for more information or to schedule a virtual tour today.

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