Plus, How to Share the Love on Valentine’s Day Your partner or parent just received a dementia diagnosis. Now what? Facing the Future Together An initial dementia diagnosis can be overwhelming, but it can help to remember there is power in being aware of the diagnosis and in taking action. In fact, infinite amounts of future stress and heartache can be avoided by making a plan with your loved one now. “One upside of an early diagnosis is that the person is still in control of their decision-making faculties,” says Suzy McCann, Community Relations Director of YourLife™ of Pensacola, a Memory Care community in Pensacola, Florida. “Finding out earlier rather than later gives the person time to document their own legal, financial and future care wishes, making it easier for their families to honor them.” But for those who are no longer able to make informed decisions on their own, it is important for families to make the plan and to include their loved one in the process. By taking the time to do your research and agree upon contingency plans now, you can avoid making regrettable decisions under rushed and emotional circumstances later. Some of the things you can do now include: • Reviewing treatment options with your loved one and establish a care plan with their medical team • Properly documenting your loved one’s care, legal and financial wishes • Researching local adult day memory care programs, home care services, and support groups • Modifying your loved one’s environment to create a safe, dementia-supportive space • Visit memory care communities to learn about respite or residential options • Form a support network with family members who can share caregiving responsibilities Learning as much as possible about the stages, symptoms, behaviors, and unique care needs of your loved one’s dementia can help make the disease progression easier for your family – logistically and emotionally. “Everyone’s journey will be different,” says McCann, “but being prepared and having a good idea of what to expect as your loved one’s dementia advances will make caring for them much less stressful when their needs start to change.” So, what’s next? 3 Key Stages of Dementia: Early, Middle and Late The three key stages generally apply to all nine types of dementia, but it’s important to remember that this is a highly personal disease. All dementias carry similar traits and symptoms, such as memory loss and behavioral changes, but how your loved one will exhibit these behaviors depends on their particular dementia type, which parts of their brain are damaged, the rate at which they progress through a stage, and other factors unique to them. Early Stage People in this stage often live independently, driving, holding a job and socializing. It is important to support their emotional needs and focus on their strengths. “Those with early-stage dementia can hide it fairly well because their symptoms often develop around the same time their unaffected peers are lamenting their own ‘senior moments,’” says McCann. “The difference is, of course, that dementia is much more than just memory loss.” Symptoms may include: • Struggling to find the right word or name • Finding it difficult to do everyday tasks • Forgetting something that they just read • Frequently losing or misplacing things • Trouble planning or organizing • Uncharacteristically poor judgment Middle Stage This stage is usually the longest and can last for several years. As dementia progresses, the person will need an increasing level of care. Deterioration of the brain can make it difficult to express themselves and do everyday things. Caregivers in this stage are at high risk for burnout. Make sure you’re getting the support and self-care you need. Symptoms may include: • Forgetting things that happened recently or major events in their life • Being frustrated, moody or withdrawn, especially in social situations or when something requires too much thought • Forgetting significant details like their address, telephone number, etc. • Becoming disoriented, unsure of where they are or what day it is • Requiring assistance choosing appropriate clothing for the weather or occasion • Possible incontinence • Changing sleep patterns • An increased risk of wandering and getting lost • Personality and behavior changes, including uncharacteristic meanness or bullying, hypersexuality or lack of inhibitions, paranoia, delusions, and compulsive, repetitive behavior like hand-wringing Late Stage Communicating and expressing thoughts become increasingly difficult, and the person progressively loses the ability to engage in the world around them. Drastic personality changes – or the fading of personality altogether – are possible. Those in the final stages of dementia typically: • Need 24/7 assistance with daily activities and personal care • Have increasing difficulty communicating • Lose awareness of recent experiences and their surroundings • Gradually and progressively lose physical abilities, including the ability to walk, sit, and swallow • Become more likely to develop infections, especially pneumonia Planning your family’s future with dementia is important – and so is stopping to smell the roses, on Valentine’s Day and any old day! Tips for a Happy Valentine’s Day • Honor your spouse’s love language this Valentine’s Day and as dementia progresses. • Keep your celebrations simple. A bouquet of your loved one’s favorite flowers or a thoughtful gift can brighten their day, form a connection with you, and improve the mood and energy in their home. • Play “your song” and ask them to dance. • Treat them to a loving massage or their favorite meal. • Read A Valentine’s Day Promise to a Loved One with Alzheimer’s • Don’t expect your loved one to remember the significance of the day. Honor special traditions and celebrations with the goal of reminding your spouse they are loved, not of the holiday or tradition itself “The most important thing to remember,” says Suzy McCann from YourLife™ of Pensacola, “is that your loved one can still enjoy the festive, happy spirit of the gesture, even if they no longer remember what it originally meant to you as a couple. Try to focus on the newfound joy it brings to you and your partner now.” To learn more about how to plan for your journey with dementia or tips on making your loved one feel extra special this Valentine’s Day, contact the team at YourLife™ of Pensacola at 850-257-7078. We look forward to supporting you. The Memory Care Your Loved One Deserves. Offering the very best in Memory Care, YourLife™ of Pensacola was designed specifically with residents in mind. We’ve created a community where residents can define their own lifestyle, based on their preferences, needs and story, all while having the peace of mind of 24-hour support and the freedom to define their own lifestyles. Because we focus solely on Memory Care, all of our resources and attention are on catering to each resident’s needs while providing unequaled peace of mind for families. Our licensed nurses and YourLife™ Personal Care Specialists are on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to provide personally inspired care and support, no matter what your needs. With such dedicated care, our residents have the support they need to live as independently and engaged as possible. At YourLife™ of Pensacola, YourStory comes to life. Whether you want to enjoy our exclusive activities and YourStory programming, spend time exploring our services and amenities, relax in our easy-to-navigate Memory Care neighborhoods and living areas or try something new, the choice is entirely up to you. Contact us at 850-257-7078 to learn more!