Planning for the future

Since learning about my mother’s diagnosis of dementia, I have felt overwhelmed with what this may mean for the future. What do you advise?

We all have different ways of coping with life changes, and adjusting to changes takes time. Being given a diagnosis of dementia, or hearing that someone you care for has this diagnosis, can be a daunting, unsettling and often stressful experience. Coping with life changes can be difficult, and from diagnosis onwards, there are many changes that you both may experience. However, there are things you can do to make the journey go more smoothly, and there are sources of support and help available.

Look after yourself

Don’t be too hard on yourself. This means being kind to yourself, and reassure yourself that you are doing your best for the person you care for. Feelings of guilt are common emotions when caring for someone with dementia. Carers often wish they could do more, or ‘better’.

It is important for you to eat and sleep well, and also to look after your own health. Take good care of yourself so that you can be in the best of health to cope with any issues you may come across. Some people find writing lists useful to break down the steps needed for each decision or task they may need to make. And maintain your sense of humour – this is a healthy approach for both of you.

Look for simpler options

Be prepared to challenge your normal standards in order to make your life easier. Look for simpler options rather than trying to make life situations perfect. For example, if the person you care for refuses to wear a suit or make-up as they usually do, don’t force this issue. If they would rather wear a coat indoors, or two different coloured slippers, that is ok too. Tell yourself to ‘let it go’ so that you can focus on the more important issues.  As far as possible, aim to include the person you care for in decisions and be flexible.

Ask for help

Don’t be afraid to say ‘No’, and don’t be afraid to ask for help, or accept help from others. Remember, you don’t have to cope alone. And try to take time for yourself, to put the situation into perspective.  Talk the situation through with friends and family. Others often want to help and would like to feel useful, so when they offer say “yes”. Some people like to be asked to complete tasks or to visit so they can feel they are involved.

Plan ahead

Try to plan ahead if possible, so that if the situation changes, you have a second plan or alternative options. Many families find it useful to look for a care home that provides respite (a break) should they need it in the future. Some people hold family meetings to discuss a plan and share the care. Many carers find it useful to look at finances early on. This may include Lasting Power of Attorney, benefit entitlements, or setting up direct debits for automatically paying monthly bills. With some plans in place, you can start to focus on living life and put some of these worries aside.