A diagnosis of Dementia is devastating. It will cause untold amounts of stress on the patient and the family and can quickly become overwhelming. Simply thinking of what the future holds and the many questions now at hand can be too much to bear; what will happen to the patient, who will handle their affairs, who will provide the enormous amounts of care needed, and how will the care be paid for? The number of difficulties that can arise between family members can be as numerous as the number of questions that have to be answered. The most important thing to do is to minimize conflict. Here are some tips that may help:
Calmly discuss all the concerns and challenges caused by the diagnosis with everyone in the senior’s close circle. Decide on who will lead information gathering for different areas: finances, medical care, personal care, options for future institutional care. Gather information on dementia from reputable sources and educate yourself on the specifics of the disease. Knowledge helps to cope with, and understand, the progression of the disease.
Include the senior in discussions as much as possible. A myriad of factors are to be considered, discussed, and implemented with the consent of the family, and as much as possible, the consent of the person with the diagnosis. As you discuss:
Everyone in the family wants to do what they can. However, each individual may not be able to provide the same thing. Some may be able to provide hands-on care, whether it be going to the senior’s home or taking the senior into their own home. Others may have more difficult schedules, and can provide assistance with transportation or by scheduling appointments. Family meetings should be planned for coordination and communication with everyone who is involved in caregiving.
The highly emotional situation caused by a dementia diagnosis can lead to arguments. If a family meeting tends to naturally devolve into argument, it could be helpful recruit a counselor, social worker, or mediator to help moderate the discussion. It’s important to openly express your feelings without assigning blame or resentment. Discuss concerns objectively so that they can be more easily solved.
Inevitably, professionals must become part of the dementia care continuum; doctors, psychiatric care, and in-home caregivers. Each has different styles of working with Dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. Take advantage of their expertise. Ask for their help in constructively addressing important issues, finding the best solutions, and caring for the dementia patient with love and lots of personal care.
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