Receiving a dementia diagnosis can rock your world. Dementia can’t be cured, though it can be managed – but you may feel as though nothing will ever be the same again.
There are an estimated 50 million people across the world affected by dementia. Alzheimer’s Disease International says that a new case of dementia is diagnosed every three seconds. One person in every 20 aged 65 or over is at risk of developing dementia, and those numbers are growing every day.
Your loved one may have been showing some signs of decline for some time – forgetting things, misplacing items, muddling their words, perhaps exhibiting unusual moods, becoming unable to do everyday tasks, and losing interest in their favourite activities. A diagnosis may come as a relief, but it will also come with its challenges.
How to cope with a loved one’s dementia diagnosis:
Accept that you will be in a state of shock. You may be reeling for some time. So will your loved one. Go easy on yourselves at this stage. Don’t make any big decisions or gestures. Allow time for the news to sink in and then you can plan for the future.
Find out as much as you can. Knowledge about the condition can help you know what to expect and make you more aware of how to support your loved one in managing the condition. There are 100 types of dementia and they all develop at different rates.
Put routines in place. This can also help you feel as though you have some sense of control. Routines and rituals will be supportive to your loved one if they are able to carry out tasks to the best of their ability.
Prioritise your own self-care. You need to put your own oxygen mask on before you can help others. You may be so busy supporting the person with dementia that you forget to look after yourself. Make sure you’re eating, exercising and relaxing. Take time also to do the things you love. There are also caregiver support groups out there where you can share your own experiences with people in a similar situation.
Don’t take things personally. As dementia takes hold, your loved one may become less and less like themselves. They will be experiencing all kinds of emotions – from rage and fear to confusion and sadness. It can feel devastating the first time your loved one forgets who you are. They may come in and out of awareness. Hard though it is not to take it personally, try to remember that it’s the dementia gradually taking over.
Be aware of caregiver burnout. The stress of caring for a loved one with dementia can take its toll on your mental health. You may feel frustrated, anxious, angry, overwhelmed. Keep an eye on how you’re feeling and reach out for help if it all becomes too much.
Talk to a professional. A counsellor or psychotherapist will be able to offer you weekly time and space to pour out your fears, resentments, hopes, challenges and stresses. Therapy can also help you develop emotional resilience for the journey ahead. Caring for a loved one with dementia can feel lonely, but you don’t have to be alone.
To arrange an initial assessment with one of our therapists, call 020 8673 4545 or email [email protected]