Being diagnosed with dementia is a life-changing event for anyone, understandably so. As with any major condition, dealing with the diagnosis is often one of the biggest hurdles to overcome. That’s why getting the right support and taking care of yourself is the number one priority. We understand how hard a diagnosis like this can be to take in, so we’ve pulled together a few tips on getting support, staying positive and telling your loved ones.
Managing your emotions
How you react to your diagnosis will vary and many of the emotions you experience will depend on your personality. However, it is common for people to feel a mixture of sadness, loss, shock, disbelief, denial, fear, culpability and sometimes, relief.
Whatever you’re feeling, it’s important to keep a positive outlook and not dwell on things you feel you could or should have done. Taking steps to managing your condition is the most beneficial thing you can do.
Taking positive steps
Dwelling on these negative reactions can lead to depression, anxiety and seclusion, so it’s important to be as positive as possible. Whilst this can be very difficult, a good place to start is to talk to your loved ones, a specialist health adviser, a support group or a counsellor; they’re all there to support you.
Whilst it might seem scary, learning more about your diagnosis is also useful for many people. Learning exactly what is happening to your body and why, as well as how it can be managed, can put your mind at rest and help to put your worries into perspective.
Understanding your options
Unfortunately, there is no cure for dementia, but there are many ways to manage the condition and slow its progress. These include medicines as well as many non-drug approaches. As there are different types of dementia, naturally there are many ways of treating it depending on how it exhibits. Your approach to treatment will also be different depending on any existing health conditions.
Your doctor will be happy to explain all the options and how the treatments work, helping you to understand your condition, its symptoms and how you can manage them. It’s a good idea to ask your doctor or health specialist the following questions:
- Are there any non-drug treatments I can try before taking medicine?
- Why are you offering me this medication/ treatment?
- How do I take my medication and what precautions and side effects should I be aware of?
- Can you provide me with information about my medicine/ treatment that I can take away?
As we’ve said, staying positive can be tough immediately after a diagnosis. However, keeping a positive outlook will ensure that your quality of life remains good. Here are a few tips on keeping positive and living your life to the full:
- Talk about things, even though relationships may change.
- Explain any problems you’re having on days when you find communication easy.
- Keep the things you need in plain sight, like keys and glasses.
- Exercise regularly, as normal.
- Quit smoking.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet, but don’t cut out things you enjoy!
- Keep doing what you enjoy. Keeping up with hobbies will help you maintain skills and relationships and keep depression at bay.
- Take steps to make your home safe.
Understandably, it’s difficult to tell friends, family and loved ones about your diagnosis, but it’s important for them to know so they can support you. Make sure they’re educated about your condition and how they can help, as well as having the emotional support they need to cope with their own reactions. There’s plenty of information and support groups to help them too!
You might find that your mood or personality changes as part of your condition. This can make maintaining relationships difficult. However, if the people around you are educated about your condition they should find it easier to cope. As time goes on, you may find it difficult to communicate and will be more reliant on those around you. Understand that, whilst people may treat you differently, they are still there to support you and you’ll need to find ways of communicating to them what kind of help you need.
Dementia is a life-changing condition for the patient as well as their loved ones. The experts at Horder Healthcare have specialist training in coaching our patients through illness with dementia – find out more about The Butterfly Scheme here. As always, if you have concerns or questions it’s always best to speak to your GP or health professional and get the support you need.