old lady diagnosed with dementia

How to Cope When a Family Member is Diagnosed with Dementia

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According to figures compiled by the Alzheimer’s Society there are currently around 850,000 people in the UK who are living with dementia and this figure is expected to rise to around 1.6 million diagnosed with dementia by the year 2040.

One of the main reasons for this startling rise is said to be because as health care continues to improve we are living longer. Whatever the reasons are, it is understandable that dementia has become one of the most frightening words in the English language.

First Steps After Being Diagnosed With Dementia

A formal diagnosis of dementia can come as a shock to the patient and their family even though there may have been warning signs for some time. In some people, dementia can appear and progress rapidly while in others it can develop slowly and imperceptibly.

Either way, it is difficult knowing what to do, how to get care in place where necessary, what support is available and more importantly, what does the future hold. You will need to sit down with the person who has received the diagnosis and make plans not only for their future care but also for the management of their affairs should they become incapacitated. Consider arranging a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) to enable a trusted family member to look after finances and fill in an Advanced Care Plan. It is important to respect the wishes of the person who has been diagnosed with dementia so they can be confident for the future.

If they are still employed, you should speak to their employer and colleagues to arrange support and possible adaptations to working hours or practises.

Speak to their GP or any other health professionals involved in the patient’s long-term care as they may be able to direct you towards any local authority support available for people who have been diagnosed with dementia. You can also contact organisations such as Dementia UK or the Alzheimer’s Society for initial advice and support.

Accept the Changes

When someone has been diagnosed with dementia that will change the way you see that person and it will affect the way they see themselves. The fear factor may cause them to want to stop doing everyday things like driving or shopping; it may also make family members over-protective of them.

There will be a significant role change as over time the diagnosed person may become completely dependent on the family member caring for them. This can lead to resentment and arguments over how much care, if any, is needed. One solution could be to consider professional care at home to take the pressure away from family so that they can more easily accept the changes which dementia places on family dynamics.

Develop Coping Strategies

For a family member who decides to take on the job of coping with someone with dementia it’s vital to develop ways of making things easier.

  • Accept help when it’s offered.
  • Develop routines and reminder strategies for when visitors arrive or for when the patient starts to forget things.
  • Join a local or online support group to access help or just an understanding ear.
  • Encourage your dementia patient to continue with their social networks and interests as much as possible.

A dementia diagnosis could often feel like a big blow to a family. It’s essential therefore not to bottle your feelings up about the diagnosis. If you feel you aren’t coping, or would benefit from someone to talk to, there are services that could help you. 

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