How to help a loved one face their fear and live well with dementia.
A dementia diagnosis can be devastating for everyone involved, but what do you do when the sufferer won’t admit there’s a problem? Denial can be a way of coping with the fear, anger, resentment and grief that come with declining health, but the sooner you seek help, the sooner you can get the support that will help to maintain your loved one’s independence for as long as possible.
The confusion, memory loss, personality changes and communication problems associated with dementia can make much-needed discussions extremely difficult. But acceptance is key to helping your loved one to adapt to the demands of daily life and keep themselves safe. There are ways in which you can alleviate the distress and put them on the path to living well with dementia.
Eight simple rules:
Talk about it.
- Don’t challenge the denial – instead, ask the sufferer to listen to your concerns. Even if they can’t admit there’s a problem for themselves, they may agree to visit a specialist to alleviate your worries.
- Remind them that the early signs of dementia can be similar to those of other, treatable conditions, so it’s best to be assessed by a medical professional as soon as possible.
- Choose your words. In the early stages, terms such as ‘forgetfulness’ and ‘memory problems’ may be less frightening and easier to relate to than ‘dementia’.
- Help them find out the facts. Keep easily digestible information such as leaflets in the house that they can read when they’re ready. Find some short online videos that you can watch together. Alzheimer’s New Zealand has a wealth of info – visit www.alzheimers.org.nz.
- Try to stay positive. Remind your loved one that advances in medicine mean that their future need not be bleak. Reassure them that getting help sooner rather than later will be to their advantage.
- If your loved one refuses to seek help, enlist the help of their GP to bring up the issue at their next consultation. They may find it easier to accept the advice of a professional.
- Reassure them that that you’re not going anywhere and are here to ensure they don’t have to, either. Explain that you want them to stay independent for as long as they can. Ways in which to do this will include making sure their house is safe to minimise accidents, obtaining the in-home support they need, and organising daily timetables and lists of self-care tasks.
- Educate yourself about the systems you’ll need in place for the future. This may include nominating an enduring power of attorney so when the time comes, you or another appropriate person has the ability to make decisions on your loved one’s behalf.
Mycare can also help if you need some extra support to maintain your or a loved one’s safety day to day. To find out more, call the Customer Success Team on 0800 677 700, or email firstname.lastname@example.org