For many people, a loved one being diagnosed with dementia, or any other kind of extreme cognitive decline, is one of their worst fears. But unfortunately, as our parents age, and as the average life expectancy rises, a parent’s dementia diagnosis is something that many of us have to deal with at some point. This can be a very emotional time for everyone concerned, and while your first thoughts might be for your parents, it’s normal to worry about how their diagnosis and uncertain future will affect you and the other members of your family. If your parent has recently been diagnosed, here are some tips to help you to cope with the news.
Make Sure You Know What to Expect
Dementia isn’t a straight line, and it can be hard to know what to expect. There’s no clear time frame or playbook, but learning as much as you can will help you to prepare and make decisions about the future. Speak to your parent and their healthcare provider and do plenty of research.
You are bound to have plenty of questions about their condition, and it’s okay to ask. Attend appointments and take a notepad to jot down anything you think you’ll want to remember. It can also help to join a support group of other carers and to ask people questions about their own experiences so far.
Help Them to Plan for the Future
Your parent is bound to be very worried about the future, and it’s never too early to put plans in place. Even if they aren’t ready for big changes, like moving into a care home yet, it can be a good idea to talk about what they want when the time comes, so that you know their wishes. Learn about what to do when a parent has dementia and look around somewhere like Belmont Village Senior Living to get an idea of the kind of care available and to talk about their options.
Have Things to Look Forward to
People with dementia have good and bad days, so it’s important that any plans that you do make, whether short or long-term, are as flexible as possible. But it’s still good to have plans in place. Even small things like dinner bookings, short breaks, theatre tickets, and other things that you’ve previously enjoyed together can give you both something to look forward to.
Get Plenty of Support
Whether you are going to be your parent’s primary carer, they plan to move into assisted living or hire help while they stay at home, your caring responsibilities are going to grow. Make sure you’ve got your own support network and other people you can ask to help out when you need to.
Let Yourself Grieve
One of the most challenging aspects of having a loved one with dementia is that they seem to be slipping away from you while they are still alive. It can feel like you are losing them very slowly, and you might feel both sad for the loss of the person that you knew, and guilty for being sad before they’ve gone. It’s normal to feel like this and to be very emotional. You are grieving, and you should let yourself.
A dementia diagnosis can be a big shock for everyone involved. Give yourself time to adapt and try to find ways to enjoy time with your parent while you can.