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7 Tips for Living With a Dementia Diagnosis

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After working for several years providing education and supporting those affected by dementia, I have found that it is vital to maintain a person’s dignity. I strive in supporting a person’s ability to find purpose in a world that is increasingly confusing and frustrating. It is this purpose that provides incredible power for patients and for those who love them.

I was able to accomplish some of this by not being afraid to think outside the box and perhaps be willing to try something unconventional. i.e. singing to a patient— and if you’ve ever heard my singing voice you would see how that is probably the last thing you might think someone would find soothing. At other times, it means getting back to basics. Reviewing and thinking about our basic needs as humans — hunger, thirst, comfort, our need for companionship and love. For the caregivers, it means allowing freedom from caregiver guilt and taking time out to focus on self-care. It can be such a difficult thing to do, especially when you are caring for someone who seems to need endless amounts of companionship and comfort.

For me personally, the joy I get from helping a patient, who may be tormented by the many symptoms associated with dementia, find a moment of peace and happiness, however fleeting that may be, makes it all worth it. This continuously motivates me to develop strategies to give them that moment of relief.

Currently it is estimated that 1 in 9 people age 65 and older have a diagnosis of dementia. As the baby boom generation has begun to reach 65 and beyond it is estimated that by 2050 this number may triple. As this number increases, how we effectively cope with and learn to adapt to life with such a diagnosis is an increasing area of interest.

Some tips for living with a dementia diagnosis:

Don’t feel you have to rush things. Allow more time than you perhaps need. Concentrating on what they are doing helps some people. For the caregiver, help the person to focus on one task at a time but avoiding distractions.

Write things down. Make lists of things that need to be done. Keep a diary and get into the habit of checking it regularly; make notes of where things are. A weekly diary up on the wall can be useful.

Make and follow a routine. You may find it easier to keep track, if you have a regular way of doing things and a particular time to do them. Routines help to decrease confusion and frustration and increase feelings of security.

Put labels on cupboards and drawers to remember where things are.
If you are taking medication, ask someone about help with remembering to take it. Some possible options to help organize medications: Blister packs, weekly pill containers, locked dispensing boxes.

Get informed and find support. Find educational information on dementia through the internet, literature, or attending educational program/ support groups near you.

Listen to music. It has incredible power to access lost memories and abilities, as well as the power to change behavior, sooth or improve mood. (See the YouTube clip about Henry and try not to get emotional — music is a powerful thing.)

This story originally appeared on Kristen Pagulayan Online Counseling.

Lead photo courtesy of Unsplash

Originally published: April 11, 2019
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