6 Steps You Need to Take After a Dementia Diagnosis
Yet there are plans that can be put in place to determine who will make medical and financial decisions as the disease advances. Planning can be empowering for both you and your loved one with Alzheimer’s, and can help ensure your spouse or parent’s wishes will be met.
The memory care experts at Retirement Center Management (RCM) have compiled these six steps to take after a dementia diagnosis to help you navigate your way through this difficult time.
Step 1: Educate yourself.
Dementia isn’t a specific disease. Rather, it’s a general term for loss of memory, language, problem-solving, and other thinking abilities that are severe enough to interfere with daily life.
Understanding your loved one’s condition helps you know what to expect at each stage, and take measures to improve your loved one’s quality of life.
Step 2: Assemble the care team.
While there isn’t a cure for Alzheimer’s yet, there are medications available to help treat symptoms. And there are therapies that can manage behavior and enhance overall quality of life. Having a solid care team in place can provide crucial support and guidance after receiving a dementia diagnosis.
You may want to collaborate with your loved one’s primary care provider or geriatrician to find potential clinical trials to participate in. You may also seek out a nutritionist, a geriatric psychiatrist, and eventually, an in-home care specialist. Remember that friends, family, and people from volunteer organizations can and should also be part of your care team.
Step 3: Create legal plans for the future.
If you’re wondering whether someone with dementia can sign legal documents, the answer is yes. The law presumes everyone is competent to make their own decisions unless proven otherwise. Someone with dementia can also accept or refuse medical care if they’re able to demonstrate adequate mental capacity. This means dementia patients have legal rights as long as they’re deemed competent.
These are among the important legal plans you’ll want to have in place soon after the dementia diagnosis. Consult with an eldercare attorney, an estate planning attorney, or other legal professional well versed on specific legal matters involving elder care, long-term care planning, retirement and related areas of the law.
- A power of attorney for healthcare allows you to make healthcare decisions on your loved one’s behalf.
- A durable power of attorney for finances/property allows you to make financial decisions when your loved one is no longer able to do so.
- A living will informs doctors how the person with dementia wants to be treated if they’re dying or permanently unconscious and can’t make their own decisions about emergency treatment.
Also, make sure you know what your loved one’s important papers are. These might include a will, life insurance, long-term care insurance, an advance directive and other crucial documents. If they exist, make sure you know where these documents are. If your loved one doesn’t have them, talk with your attorney about creating them.
The Alzheimer’s Association also has a fairly comprehensive list of legal documents you may find helpful.
Step 4: Talk about end-of-life planning.
The only way to know what your loved one’s wishes are is to talk about them. These questions can help start the conversation:
- In what kind of environment do you hope to spend the end of your life?
- Do you have any spiritual beliefs about the end of your life you’d like to have honored?
- Are there any treatments you don’t want to have?
- Do you want a Do Not Resuscitate order?
- Do you want palliative care to be provided?
Step 5: Seek support.
There are caregiver resources, events, support groups, and more in nearly every city and state. Most are facilitated by people who are also dealing with the disease, so they understand what you’re going through. These groups may meet in person or online, but they share the common purposes of providing support and a caring community.
Step 6: Help your loved one live their best life.
You’ve completed all the planning you can; now you can help your loved one enjoy each day as much as possible. Ensure their physical, emotional, social and spiritual health is maintained. Help them reduce stress and enhance their well-being. Consider working with a counselor who can provide coping strategies for both you and your loved one. The journey through this disease isn’t an easy one, but it can be navigated with grace and love.
RCM’s ESPRIT Memory Care Program provides a comforting environment and caring associates for people with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia. We can help you find a community that fits the needs of your loved one. Contact us and we’ll reach out quickly to serve you.