Facing the Realities of Dementia

When a loved one is diagnosed with dementia, more often than not it does not come as a surprise to their family. Dementia usually comes on gradually with plenty of warning signs. It is something that you certainly see coming, yet now that it has progressed to a point of diagnosis, and is causing some concern, what now?

Educate yourself. The more you can learn about the illness the more equipped you will be to help. Learning about dementia will help you know better how to help and what to expect as the disease progresses.

The most common forms of dementia include: Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, fronto-temporal and alcohol related dementia. By far the most pervasive is Alzheimer’s disease.

Resources available for families of those with dementia are plentiful. Such resources can help you learn about dementia, how and what to plan for, and how to cope with the realities and stress this illness can bring. Your first resource should be the Physician. He may refer you to a specialist such as a Neurologist to better diagnose and recommend care and treatment for them. Most hospital Social Workers and Care Managers will be familiar with resources that are available in your area, such as

  • Alzheimer’s support groups and Homecare agencies. Here in New Hampshire, ‘Service Link’, a resource of the Department of Health and Human Services can be very helpful. They offer free information and referral services to help you find help.

Seek out and accept help. As dementia progresses more care and attention is needed. Some family caregivers may feel they do not need help due to a supportive family or a strong independent spirit to care for their loved one alone. However, we have seen too much stress and burnout, even illness, due to family caregivers trying to go it alone. You do not have to be a superhero and go it alone. We encourage you to connect with and line up support from the start so it's in place when you need it. Help can be found in many forms:

  • Respite care, to be able to get a break without worrying. Many homecare agencies will provide services whenever you need a day off.

  • Long-Term In-Home care can help if you are away at work during the day, or if your loved one lives alone. Homecare agencies can provide regular ongoing care on a schedule. This can allow your loved one to remain in their own home while provide the assisted living care they need.

  • Adult Day Care facilities can be an option to provide relief and a break for you.

  • Assisted Living Centers specifically for dementia related illness are available for those who cannot stay at home.