Getting a diagnosis of dementia for a loved one can be an incredibly difficult experience. It doesn’t only mean something for your loved one at this moment in time, but also affects the trajectory of the rest of their life. It will almost certainly make their life harder, and, as someone who cares for them, yours as well. It’s a time for pulling together and offering support to one another. Eventually it’s also time to do some planning for future care.
We hope this post can help you kickstart the planning process and feel a little more prepared for your loved one’s long-term care.
Ruling Out Other Medical Conditions
The very first thing that needs to be done is to check for cases of dementia that are not necessarily related to cognitive decline.
Dementia symptoms can be induced by other medical conditions such as heart disease, brain masses, or even interactions between medications your loved one may be taking. Many of these factors are treatable, which can halt or even reverse the dementia symptoms, which would obviously be a best case scenario.
Looking on the Bright Side
Even if your loved one’s dementia symptoms are deemed to be due to neurological deterioration, it’s important to appreciate the positives:
- If your loved one is just now receiving a dementia diagnosis, chances are he or she is in the early stages of dementia. Dementia is a progressive condition, but the pace at which it progresses varies greatly for each individual. That means your loved one likely has many quality years left in his or her life.
- Along the same lines, dementia progresses differently for everyone, and there’s evidence that quality of care received does help those with dementia to live a longer and more fulfilled life. That means you can positively impact your loved one’s life by giving them the best care possible.
- Our understanding of dementia, while not complete, is better than it has ever been. From appropriate medical care, to products available for your home to make your loved one’s life easier, the support you need is available.
- Your relationship with your loved one may change as a result of their developing condition, but it can remain positive and full of joy for a long time to come.
Areas for Future Planning
You’ll be best equipped to handle the situation and what the future holds if you do some careful planning now. Some of the spheres you should think about include:
Your loved one will need a higher level of medical care from here on out, and this is important to plan for. At first, it may just be more frequent appointments. While you’re at it, you might try scheduling all their medical appointments for the whole year in one go if possible, so you can plan your availability ahead of time.
At the later stages of dementia more serious care may be necessary, including, home care at various levels, and ultimately the possibility of full-time care at a facility.
How much do you know about your loved one’s estate? There is no better time to learn everything you can than right now, before the condition has progressed. If your loved one has a will, it might have to be altered to account for the cost of care at the later stages of dementia.
If your loved one’s estate looks like it will not be able to cover the costs, that responsibility may fall on his or her family. Thankfully, there are a number of potential pathways for support, including long term care insurance policies, state assistance, and reverse mortgages. You should make an appointment with someone knowledgeable on these matters, particularly from the perspective of dementia, as they will be able to tell you where to turn and save you a lot of time.
Figuring out legal power of attorney now will give you fewer issues to worry about down the road. Your loved one should have a will, as well as a living will that outlines what is to be done in the event that they are eventually on life support and/or unable to make decisions for themselves.
The Importance of Perspective
All this planning may begin to stress you out. Remember to actually spend time with your loved one, who, depending on his or her level of understanding of the diagnosis, may also be having a hard time.
While you’re at it, you will need to get educated on all things related to dementia. To start, make a list of all your questions, so you know what you’re looking to get answered. There are some great books and online resources on the subject.
The Alzheimer’s Association hosts online support groups where participants can ask questions, get advice, and find support. Click here to browse upcoming virtual events.
One of the fastest ways to get up to speed is to speak with an expert on dementia who can help get your questions answered.
To get a better idea of where your loved one stands right now, and what level of support you would ideally be offering him or her, check out our Home Care Quiz, which assesses 6 key areas of well being:
- Eating Habits
- Personal Hygiene
- Care of Home
- Safety/Mental Attitude
At the end of our Home Care Quiz, you’ll also have the opportunity to schedule a 30-Min virtual one-on-one session with Scott, our Memory Care Program Director, to get all your questions answered!