A diagnosis of dementia is upsetting for the person receiving the news, and also for their loved ones.
It signals the beginning of a difficult time of life; a time of change and upheaval. But people living with one of the various forms of dementia, don’t have to deal with the situation alone.
Dementia isn’t the end, and it’s certainly not a time to just sit there and wait for the world to pass you by! With the right advice and support, there’s nothing stopping you from continuing to live a fruitful, safe and happy life in your own home.
Your doctor is the first port of call. Make sure you – and any family or friends you want involved – understand what your diagnosis means, what the treatments are, and what other support is available.
While it’s true that people in some situations need to move from their homes into a residential aged care home, this is certainly not always the case. In fact, a lot of research has been done showing that there are enormous benefits to living in the family home for as long as possible. And as a result, remaining at home is not only encouraged, but actively supported by government and community groups.
Why home is best
It’s common sense that people feel safer and happier when they are in a familiar place surrounded by the people and things that are important to them. And that’s why continuing to live in your own home is usually the best course of action. Staying at home is also the best way to maintain relationships with your spouse or partner, family and friends, and it’s also the most comforting place to be if memory loss is one of your symptoms.
With a little bit of help and support, being at home also means you can continue preparing and eating the food you like, watching your favourite TV shows, and keeping up your other daily routines. If an evening of Doc Martin and a serve of bangers and mash is your idea of perfection, go right ahead!
And, of course, staying at home doesn’t actually mean staying at home. Keeping up social contact through outings, walks and trips to the shops means you can stay healthier, more active and more independent for longer, while stimulating your brain with all the noise, movement, beauty and action of everyday life. Research shows that people with dementia who live at home longer actually live longer lives.
Help at home
One reason that people with dementia move into aged care too soon is that they have nobody around them to help at home. They might also feel guilty about being a ‘burden’ on loved ones, and feel that there is no other option. But there are options.
There’s no doubt that it is sometimes difficult caring for a person with dementia, especially for life partners or adult children who can also feel overwhelmed by the changes. Which is why it’s a relief to know that help around the home – ranging from gardening and shopping right through to personal and medical care – is available to help you stay in your home for as long as possible. Depending on your financial situation, government assistance may even be available to help with the cost of care. Your doctor, a social worker or a friend can help you arrange an Aged Care Assessment, which is a meeting with healthcare workers. After that, you’ll be told what home care options are available, and whether you qualify for a Home Care Package to help cover the costs.
Dementia or not, you still have a life to live. And while you may eventually need the dedicated support of an aged care home, until that time comes you can continue to enjoy the comfort and familiarity of your own home.