Coping with Your Dementia Diagnosis
Finding out you have dementia can be stressful and scary. You may have many emotions, such as sadness and anger. There are many things to plan for, and problems to tackle. But learning more about the condition and what to expect can help you find resources and support that fit your situation. Planning ahead will help you focus on the issues that matter most to you.
Keeping Healthy and Active
A dementia diagnosis doesn’t mean you can’t live your life. In fact, keeping active can help reduce some symptoms of dementia. Spend social time with friends and family. Get help managing your symptoms so you can keep up with your favorite activities. Eat healthy foods and take medications as directed. Get regular exercise. Have regular checkups with your health care provider. And keep up with your yearly flu shot and other vaccines.
Planning for Safety
A person with dementia is more at risk for issues of safety at home and in the community. These include accidents, falls, burns, and poisoning. You may want to talk with your health care provider about having an occupational therapist or visiting nurse evaluate your home for potential safety issues. Here are some things to consider:
Make some changes to your home to keep you safe. These may include removing area rugs and labeling things.
You will need to stop driving at some point. Look for other ways of getting around now, such as community services, friends, and family members.
Wear a medical alert bracelet or have a wallet card. This will allow someone to help you if you get lost.
Get help managing your medicines. This will help make sure that you don’t forget a dose or double up by mistake.
Planning Ahead for Living Arrangements and Care
What will be the best type of living arrangement for you over time? If you are having trouble caring for your basic needs, it may be possible to get help from an in-home aide. Your community may have adult day-care services. You may also wish to explore residential care, such as assisted living or a nursing home. Don’t wait for something to happen, such as a fall or other accident in the home.
You can learn more about making decisions about long-term care services at http://www.va.gov/geriatrics/guide/longtermcare/Shared_Decision_Making.asp.
Planning Ahead for Medical Choices
You may want to do advance care planning. This is the process of making decisions about your own future medical care. You can put together a series of documents called an advance directive. It is also called a living will. An advance directive helps make sure that the person’s medical care will match his or her values and goals. There are two types of advance directives, durable power of attorney for health care and a living will. The VA also has its own advance directive form http://www.va.gov/vaforms/medical/pdf/vha-10-0137-fill.pdf.
When all the documents are completed, they will need to be signed. Some may need to be notarized. Be sure to give signed and notarized copies to people who need them. This may include your lawyer, health care proxy, family members, and health care providers.
Planning for Financial and Legal Issues
It’s important to plan ahead for financial issues. Putting a financial plan in place can prevent problems for you and your family. It will make sure that your money and assets are managed as you wish. And it will make sure that decisions about your estate are not left to the court system after your death. You may want to create a durable power of attorney, living trust, and a will.