If your loved one has been newly diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, you may feel like your world has been turned upside down. You may be sad at the thought of cherished memories that will be lost. You may also feel overwhelmed about the progressive nature of dementia symptoms and worried about how to provide the best care for your parent.
Learning about your loved one’s disease and understanding what to expect can help you cope with a dementia diagnosis. It can empower you and your family to make the best decisions about your parent’s care, whether it’s at home or in a memory care community.
It can be difficult to accept an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis. Sadness, anger, denial, and fear are just a few of the emotions you and your loved one may experience. You may be grieving for your parent — especially if they already have significant memory loss.
Encourage your loved one to talk to you about their feelings honestly. It’s OK if you don’t have all the answers and solutions. A listening ear can go a long way.
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A dementia diagnosis also offers you an opportunity to treasure the remaining time you do have with your loved one. Cherish the moments you have together, and seize opportunities to tell them how much they mean to you. Instead of thinking about the skills they have lost or may lose in the future, try to focus on what your loved one can still do.
Dementia is broken into seven stages with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Most people can function independently during the early stages. Your loved one will likely still be able to drive, attend social events, and live on their own.
However, the most common types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, are progressive. This means symptoms worsen over time. As your parent’s disease progresses, they’ll need more support with daily activities and with common behavioral symptoms such as confusion, agitation, wandering, and sleep problems.
People with late-stage dementia require 24-hour supervision and care. They lose their ability to communicate coherently and often need assistance with bathing, dressing, feeding, walking, and using the bathroom.
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Alzheimer’s and dementia progression varies widely. Some people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia may live between three and 11 years after diagnosis, while others live 20 years or more. The severity of your loved one’s dementia will affect their life expectancy after a dementia diagnosis. Common causes of death in people with dementia include pneumonia, dehydration, malnutrition, falls, and other injuries or infections.
You can’t change your loved one’s diagnosis, but there are things you can do to help them cope and stay healthy and safe for as long as possible.
Figuring out what to do when your parent is diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease isn’t something you have to do alone. Contact our Senior Living Advisors (SLAs) for free support when planning for future dementia care. Our SLAs are experts in memory care and senior living communities in your area. They will take the time to learn about your family’s unique needs to help you determine the right type of care for your loved one.
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