Dealing with a dementia diagnosis
Even if you or your family have suspected the diagnosis for some time, a formal dementia diagnosis can be a difficult and emotional time and it may take you a while to accept the news. This is normal and understandable, but when you're ready there are some practical steps you can take that will make life easier for you and your family in the future.
Talk to your doctor about what to expect.
Even if your doctor was involved in your diagnosis, it is a good idea to have a further conversation about what to expect, and who else should be involved in your care. There may be new drugs, treatment options or specialists that your doctor can recommend, and is it a good idea to check in regularly. This will also help your doctor monitor your progress.
You may find it helpful to prepare a list of questions for them and keep track of their responses so you can keep a good record of treatment.
Find a dementia support group or seek out counselling.
Talking about dementia may be hard, and you may find you don't feel comfortable discussing the condition with your wider circle, colleagues and acquaintances. In that case, you may find it easier to talk about the condition with others who are experiencing a similar condition or who have experience in supporting those with dementia. Alzheimer's Australia has a range of services and programs for people with all types of dementia and their families, and can help with additional information about a range of conditions as well as connect you with programs and services in your state.
If you believe you or your family might benefit from some additional care or support, you will need to undergo an assessment by an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT, or ACAS if you are in Victoria). This free assessment will assess your specific health requirements and make a recommendation about the care you can access and also for any financial benefits you may be entitled to.
Make sure the legal and financial matters are sorted.
As the condition progresses it may be harder to make decisions or there may be progressive memory loss. Prepare for this now by getting your legal situation in order by checking that there is both a will and a power of attorney in place, so that someone else is able to make medical or financial decisions.
It will also help to keep clear records of insurance policies, mortgages and investments for those who need to be entrusted with the financial care so they can continue to pay bills and manage the finances.
Begin to plan care needs.
As the condition progresses, you or your family may benefit from additional in-home or accommodation care. It may pay to research the care options close to you to establish which will best suit you should this sort of care be needed in the future.
Most of all, people diagnosed with dementia should keep doing what they enjoy doing. There is mounting evidence that people with dementia, even in the later stages of the disease, can continue to enjoy life if they have the right environment and support in place.
For more information about dealing with a dementia diagnosis you can visit Alzheimer's Australia's Start2Talk site, or or to research in home or assisted living dementia care in your area start a care summary now.