A dementia diagnosis – 8 important things to think about
A dementia diagnosis can lead to a range of thoughts and feelings going through your mind, from shock and sadness to practical concerns about money or work. Here are 8 things you should consider……..
1. Who have you got to talk to?
It’s vital that you have at least one person who you can confide in and talk to honestly about the dementia diagnosis and any fears or feelings. It could be your partner, your children, your best friend or a counsellor or dementia advisor. You will probably be entitled to a number of free counselling sessions on the NHS, which may be useful if you want someone outside of your family to talk to. The first person you should contact about this is your GP.
2. Have you told the people who need to know?
You will need to tell certain organisations if you’ve had a diagnosis. This includes the DVLA, because although you won’t necessarily need to give up driving, you could be fined up to £1000 if you haven’t let them know and you’re then involved in an accident. If you’re still working, you don’t always have to tell your employer, but it could be useful as they may be able to alter your job role slightly to allow for any difficulties you may be having.
3. Are you entitled to any benefits?
People with a dementia diagnosis may be eligible for certain support, for example help with cleaning, cooking, or free equipment. Those who only mildly affected by dementia my not be able to get help straight away, but it could still be worth contacting your local Social Services department and asking for a community care assessment to find out what might be available further down the line.
Here is some more information on claiming benefits.
4. Have you made a Will?
To be honest, everyone should have a Will, even if they don’t have dementia diagnosis, but getting vital legal documents organised is especially important now, while they’re still fit and well, and have the mental capacity to make decisions. Your Will can be as simple, or as complex as you want it to be – and it doesn’t have to cost a lot. Most people say they feel much better once it’s done. Please make sure you also read our section on why you should have a Will.
Here is also a short video on why you should have a Will.
5. Have you created a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)?
There may come a time on the dementia journey when you need help making decisions about your finances or your health and wellbeing. This is probably a long way off, but it is worth setting up an LPA now, while you still have the mental capacity to do so. It is much better to do this in the early stages of a dementia diagnosis. Leaving it until you have lost your mental capacity could mean you have to set up a Deputyship, which is far more time-consuming and expensive. You can appoint an attorney to look after your financial and legal affairs – for example control your bank account or pay for care home fees – and a health and care attorney, who could decide how you are cared for, or medical treatment you could receive. It’s up to you who you appoint, providing they’re over 18 and you feel you can trust them completely.
Please make sure you also read our section on why you should have a lasting power of attorney.
Here is a short video explaining more about what a Lasting Power of Attorney is.
6. Are your affairs in order?
It’s a good idea to get all your important papers in order – such as pension details, banking passwords, bank statements, your Will – and make sure they’re in a place that is accessible for your spouse or family member. Being organised will save your loved one a lot of stress if they can access financial and legal documents easily.
7. Do you want to make an advanced decision or a living will?
These are legal documents that help you stay in control of your life and medical treatments. An advanced decision (sometimes called a living will) means you can refuse procedures or treatments further down the line, such as CPR (cardio pulmonary resuscitation) which might prolong your life but won’t, in your opinion, add any quality to it. If you have very strong feelings about this, or other treatments you might not want to have, it’s worth making an advanced decision.
8. Are you looking after your health?
Taking care of your health is vital at any age, but evidence also suggests that the better care you take of your physical and mental health, the stronger you’ll remain. This means cutting back on alcohol, eating a balanced diet, cutting out smoking and taking regular exercise as they’ve all been shown to slow down the progress of dementia and make you feel better for longer.
There’s no doubt that a dementia diagnosis can be a great shock. But it can also act as a wake-up call and a way to concentrate the mind, put life in perspective and work out what really matters to you. If you haven’t already made a bucket list – where you create a list of things you’ve always wanted to do – now is the time to do it. Many people find that learning to live in the moment, and making a conscious effort to do things they enjoy, makes them feel healthier and happier than they have for a long time.
For more information on how to live well with dementia, visit Unforgettable.org