4 Steps to Take After You’re Diagnosed with Dementia

By Vee Cecil, Wellness Coach & Personal Trainer

couple_strollingReceiving a diagnosis means big life changes are ahead, but it certainly doesn’t have to be devastating. By taking certain steps, those who’ve been diagnosed with dementia can thrive. Read on for four important steps to address when you find out that you’re living with dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

  1. Acknowledge your feelings and take care of your emotional needs. That’s right; just because there are important tasks that must be addressed doesn’t mean you should neglect your emotions. It’s critical to allow yourself to feel the range of emotions that may come up after a diagnosis. These may take the form of anger, denial, or resentment, or even depression. Or you might feel relief that you finally have a reason for the symptoms you’ve been experiencing.Share your feelings with family and friends. Join an early-stage support group or start writing down your feelings in a journal. If you’re really struggling to cope with your emotions, talk with your doctor, who may be able to come up with a treatment plan that helps you through this difficult time. And don’t neglect your physical health. Exercise can be very beneficial for people living with dementia. For example, in addition to being great for your heart, swimming helps reduce anxiety and increase relaxation.
  1. Learn as much as you can. There’s an abundance of misinformation out there about dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, in particular, homeopathic, naturopathic, or alternative treatments that at best will make no difference and at worst can actually be harmful. Gingko biloba, estrogen replacement therapy, extremely high doses of aspirin or Vitamin E, and chelation therapy are just a few of the treatments you might read about in the mainstream media that haven’t actually been proven to have beneficial effects.Again, talking with your physician is key. Be sure to inform your healthcare provider about any alternative or homeopathic remedies you’re using to avoid potentially dangerous interactions with prescription drugs you may be taking.
  1. Keep your routines as consistent as possible. In the early stages of dementia, you may struggle with short-term memory issues such as remembering what day of the week it is or important upcoming appointments.Place orienting objects throughout your home, such as calendars, clocks, and written schedules and appointment reminders. By prominently displaying the date, day, and time throughout your home, your everyday activities are more easily completed.
  1. Get your legal and financial affairs in order. Many of us put off tasks such as preparing a living will because we don’t like to think about the possibility that we may need one. But as the National Institute on Aging explains, “A complication of diseases such as Alzheimer’s is that the person may lack or gradually lose the ability to think clearly. This change affects his or her ability to participate meaningfully in decision making and makes early legal and financial planning even more important.”Planning ahead and making difficult decisions isn’t easy, but it’s critical for individuals who have received a diagnosis to get their legal and financial documents in order before the disease progresses and symptoms may make it difficult to play an active role in making decisions about your care and finances.You should prepare an Advance Directive, also known as a Living Will, a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, and a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order if desired. Other important legal and financial documents to consider are a Will, a Durable Power of Attorney for Finances, and a Living Trust. Consulting with an estate attorney or geriatric care manager is often a good idea, as these professionals can help with the planning process as well as the preparation of legal documents.

Receiving a diagnosis can be scary, but it just means you’ll need to take action to adjust to a new normal. Taking these four critical steps following your diagnosis will help you feel more at ease knowing that your emotional, care, and financial needs are addressed.

Vee Cecil is a Kentucky born and bred wellness coach and personal trainer. She is passionate about all things health-related and keeping others informed on personal wellbeing. She regularly shares her findings on wellness on her recently-launched blog.

**Photo Credit: Image via Flickr by Francisco Osorio**

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