Dementia Diagnosis – Now What?

Dementia is an umbrella term that covers many different types of cognitive impairment. Whether you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, vascular dementia, or dementia with Lewy bodies, absorbing the impact of a life-changing diagnosis can be challenging. It can be scary to think about how this diagnosis will change your life going forward.

While being diagnosed with dementia can be a scary situation, for some people, it can spur them into positive action. The diagnosis may bring clarity to what have been confusing symptoms. This clarity may be exactly what they need to take the first step toward getting help and support.

dementia diagnosis

First 5 Steps After a Dementia Diagnosis

  1. Take a moment
  2. Plan for the future
  3. Learn more about your diagnosis
  4. Develop a support network
  5. Find resources to support healthy aging

1. Give yourself space and more than a little grace.

The shock of a dementia diagnosis can invoke immobilizing fear. For the diagnosed and their caregiver, emotions are sure to be running high – grief, loss, anger, fear, disbelief. All these feelings need time to run their course, and everyone deserves a moment to sit with each and every one.

Some people may struggle with these emotions while others seem to be relieved and ready to move on. Everyone must have the opportunity to express their feelings. Family and friends will want to be there with support and encouragement. However, it is important to take the time to process the dementia diagnosis between the caregiver and the diagnosed person.

Pro-tip: Everyone handles the diagnosis differently. Do it in your own time and your way. Ultimately, you must move through it and keep going for your own well-being and that of your family.

2. If you haven’t already, start planning for the future.

For those who have put off incapacity planning, it’s time to get busy. When an individual is newly diagnosed, they are likely still able to participate in creating an aging plan and sign advance directives. There comes a time when a person diagnosed with dementia can no longer understand the implications of documents, such as a Power of Attorney. If a doctor states you can no longer give informed consent, you will not be able to sign advance directives.

When you can no longer sign documents, it may be necessary for a guardianship action to be filed with the court. The silver lining of a timely diagnosis is that the individual with dementia can still participate in the planning process. There is life after diagnosis and choices can still be made that will have positive impacts throughout the disease process.

Pro-tip: Don’t wait for an adverse diagnosis to begin an aging plan.

3. Learn as much as you can after a dementia diagnosis.

Learn about the disease process, what to expect, and how independence can be maintained for as long as possible. Use this information to make decisions for treatment and quality of life. There is no way to prevent dementia; however, choices in lifestyle and medication can have a big impact on increasing healthy days.

Commonly Used Medications for Dementia

Aricept

Exelon

Razadyne

Namenda

Take an active role in doctor’s visits. Ask questions about current medications and their current efficacy. Are there new medications coming to market? Find medical providers who specialize in individuals with dementia and who will take the time to walk you through options.

Pro-tip: Get experts involved as quickly as possible and coordinate a plan for healthy aging. Even with a dementia diagnosis, healthy lifestyle choices can make a difference.

dementia diagnosis

4. Start to define your village.

It is important to remember that you are not alone. Your situation may be unique to you, but it is not a unique situation. There are people and resources who can help and support you every step of the way. The first step is reaching out and sharing your story.

Members of Your Village

Doctors

Church

Care workers

Elder Law Attorney

Family

Friends

Every person diagnosed with dementia and their caregiver has a village. You may not immediately recognize who they are but look around – you will see you are surrounded by helpers. All the people in our life – family, friends, and professionals – are there to provide guidance and support to help us live an emboldened life.

Pro-tip: Asking for help can be hard. Even when we don’t ask and help is offered, it can be hard to accept. It’s never too early to start practicing being a little less independent!

5. Healthy aging is possible after a dementia diagnosis.

Managing a diagnosis of cognitive impairment requires a thoughtful plan. There are resources available in your local area with physical and mental health benefits. Organizations that provide services, education, and support offer a lifeline to the diagnosed individual and their caregiver.

Local Dementia Organizations

Brevard Alzheimer’s Foundation

Memory Disorder Clinic

The Center for Family Caregivers

These organizations will also have resources for support groups, lecture series, and even online communities to provide support and guidance. For both the diagnosed and the caregiver, staying active and involved will remain an important component of healthy aging. Additionally, it’s never too late to add exercise and a healthy diet into your daily routine.

Always Remember – You Are Not Alone

A diagnosis of dementia for yourself or a loved one may feel like the end of the world. Scheduling an appointment to confront the diagnosis rather than avoid it was brave. You are stronger than you think, and you are never – ever – alone on this journey.

dementia diagnosis

With or without a dementia diagnosis, the first step in peace of mind is a meeting with an experienced Elder Law Attorney. When you have an aging plan in place, adjustments can be made for unexpected setbacks. Your elder law specialist will be there every step of the way and help you prepare a plan that helps preserve your legacy.

Elder Law Attorneys are specialists in matters that affect older people. You never know what may come your way in life but with the thoughtful guidance of an elder law advocate, you’ll have the confidence you need to handle it. Learn more about Elder Law Attorneys and the peace of mind that comes with financial, incapacity, and estate planning in the Legal and Financial Section of our Blog.

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