A dementia diagnosis can be an extremely emotional time for any family. You may feel relieved in finally receiving a diagnosis to explain recent changes you had been seeing in yourself or a loved one. Alternatively, you may be feeling anxious and scared for what the future now holds. Knowing where to turn for advice and being able to formulate a plan for your next steps can help you feel supported and not alone.
The first and most important step has already been made for you: receiving a diagnosis. Whether you were expecting it or not, the news will likely be upsetting and you may experience a range of different emotions in the days and weeks following the diagnosis. We hope that the information below will help you focus on tangible things you can do to ease your anxieties.
Learn more about dementia
Educating yourself about the progression of dementia and how it will affect your loved one’s actions and behaviour will help you create a care plan that preserves their independence and dignity. You can connect with organizations, such as the Alzheimer Society of Canada or The Dementia Society of Ottawa and Renfrew County, to access useful resources and learn more. Share this information with your friends and family members, and other people close to your loved one, to help them better understand the situation.
Explore treatment options
Sadly, there is no current cure for dementia. However, there are medications that can help to slow the effects of this debilitating disease. Discuss treatment options with your loved one’s doctor to learn about the risks and benefits of different medications.
Understand that caregiving can affect your own health
There is such a thing as ‘caregiver stress’, which can affect you both mentally and physically. Recognizing the signs of caregiver stress and taking steps to minimize them ensures that both you and your loved one are well taken care of. Taking advantage of community programs that can support you and provide relief from your caregiving duties can be hugely helpful.
In Ottawa, our day programs and the Respite House offer people living with dementia the chance to get out of the house and connect with other people – to dance, bake and share a laugh. These programs are a great way to reduce caregiver stress by giving you respite.
Reach out to organizations that can help you
Organizations, such as Carefor, can provide assistance to those living with dementia and their caregivers. Our Adult Day Programs offer clients with dementia a chance to enjoy activities designed to enhance their well-being in a safe and supportive setting, while providing respite and support for care partners. Our Personal Support Services also provide help to clients in their own homes with tasks such as personal care, feeding assistance and grooming and dressing. You can find a selection of caregiver resources on our website here: https://carefor.ca/services/care-partner-resources
Build a support network
Becoming a caregiver for someone living with dementia can often feel very isolating. Forming a support network that you can rely on will help to combat this and stop you from feeling so alone. In addition to supportive friends and family members, connecting with dementia support groups or community organizations can provide a safe space for you to share your thoughts and feelings.
Plan for the future
Discuss and document plans for the future with your loved one and involve them in all decision-making processes. These could include their wishes for future healthcare and decisions about financial issues, such as legal or estate issues. Help your loved one identify someone who can make financial, legal, and medical decisions on their behalf when they are no longer able to.
If you are no longer able to care for your loved one living with dementia at home, you may need to make considerations for long-term care. Our Richmond Care Home, located 30 minutes outside of Ottawa, is unique in that it caters solely to women living with dementia. Offering top of the line memory care services at an affordable price, we can provide your loved one with the support and care she deserves in a quiet home-like environment. Learn more here: https://carefor.ca/services/richmond-care-home_1