If a loved one has received a dementia diagnosis, you may be feeling overwhelmed – and uncertain – as to which steps to take next.
It’s important to understand there are several resources available to provide guidance. It can also be helpful to realize you are not alone. A recent study estimates that almost 10% of U.S. adults aged 65 and older have been diagnosed with dementia. And beginning in 2024, all Baby Boomers will be aged 60 and over. Along with increasing longevity, the number of those living with dementia is projected to grow significantly.
After the Dementia Diagnosis: 10 Steps for Moving Forward
It is difficult to receive a dementia diagnosis. Emotions can range from fear to anger to denial. Some people may also feel relief. They knew something was wrong and the diagnosis makes it easier to focus now on decisions that need to be made.
There is no right or wrong way to feel about a diagnosis. But being prepared and knowing what to expect can make a big difference. These 10 steps can help families begin to move forward.
1. Become educated
Learn as much as possible about dementia, including the different stages of the disease and recommendations for how best to prepare. Understanding what to expect and making plans to meet any challenges can go a long way in helping the individual feel less powerless and gain back control over personal choices.
2. Work with the medical team
A primary source of information and partner in this journey is the medical or care team. It’s a good idea to make a continuing list of questions to discuss at the next visits. These might include how the disease will progress, what treatment options or medications may be available and whether they can recommend services or resources.
3. Prepare for changes and adaptations
Many people diagnosed with dementia remain at home, especially in the earlier stages. Assess the home for safety and security as well as who will provide the primary care when needed. It is essential that the individual maintain a healthy diet and remain active – both physically and socially. Create a plan that will contribute to a high-quality life.
4. Share the diagnosis with close family and friends
An initial reaction for many after receiving a dementia diagnosis is to keep the information private. However, sharing this news with trusted family and friends can provide a network of support. There is no shame or fault in developing dementia. Being surrounded by a reliable and caring group can make this time easier.
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5. Plan for assistance with day-to-day tasks
After a dementia diagnosis, it’s a good idea to consider the type of help that will be needed in the future. Consider what services or agencies are available in the area. Research the options of food service delivery, transportation and hiring someone to help with personal care.
6. Assess the home’s safety and arrange for repairs or renovation
This is a good time to walk through the home and take note of any accessibility challenges or any upgrades required for safety. Are the bathrooms and kitchens age-friendly? Consider how to simplify maintaining the household and decrease the risk of falling, wandering or other safety issues.
7. Explore preferred long-term care choices
Discuss the individual’s preferences for future care and any options such as a family member providing the earlier primary care. Examine the possibility of bringing in additional memory support and respite. Visit a memory care community to understand the benefits they offer – not only for physical and cognitive care but opportunities to improve quality of life.
8. Determine the costs of care
As a progressive disease, the level of care needed will also increase over time. You’ll want to consider budgeting for medical treatment, equipment, safety modifications for the home, prescription drugs, adult day services and the fees for home or health care and the cost of a memory care community. For an accurate budget, talk with agencies and communities directly instead of estimating fees, which can vary widely.
9. Discuss legal planning
Making sure legal affairs are in order as soon as possible after a dementia diagnosis not only feels empowering but ensures the individual’s wishes will be known. Review existing documents with an elder law attorney and determine if updates are required or if there are any forms missing, including power of attorney, advanced directives, trusts and wills.
10. Complete financial planning
Create a list of assets and debts as well as a budget based on the costs of future care and daily expenses. Discover what resources may be available to fund these budget items. Review if the individual is eligible for any government benefits and whether there are insurance policies, retirement pensions, personal savings and investments.
Source: Alzheimer’s Association
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If you’re considering senior living for yourself or a family member, we hope you’ll visit one of our communities. You’ll find a maintenance-free, activity-filled and engaging lifestyle to help support your wellness goals.
You’ll also discover many benefits in a Northbridge Senior Living community, including our Signature Program S.T.A.R. Club (Sharp Thinking, Active Residents) – which offers our residents several activities to participate in with others, including:
- Daily exercise group
- Walking club
- Tai Chi & yoga
- Nutritional classes
- Library and book club
- Museum outings
- Artists in residence program
- Multi-generational music
- Genealogy Generations
We’re here to answer any of your questions. Please contact us if we can provide further information or if you would like to schedule a personalized tour. Download our complimentary Family Decision Toolkit.