In many ways, the beginnings and early stages of dementia can be among the most challenging. Your loved one may not recognize subtle changes in his cognition. You may not be sure exactly when to step in, or how to help.
My goal for every family is to preserve the best quality of life that is possible. In the early stages of dementia, that means preserving as much independence as your loved one can handle. It also means setting boundaries to keep your loved one safe. It means recognizing limitations and avoiding stress to keep your loved one happy.
That’s a tall order, of course. Here are a few things to think about as you consider navigating dementia with your loved one:
Get a Mental Evaluation
It’s important to understand that most primary care doctors do not have much training in treating dementia. If you think there’s something wrong, call a neuropsychologist and schedule a diagnostic appointment. If your loved one resists this idea, you can request a house call. When he or she arrives, introduce the professional as a “doctor” without being too specific.
Recognize That These Early Stages of Dementia Can be Among the Most Dangerous
Things don’t seem right, but you’re not sure. Your loved one may be frustrated or suspicious. This is the time when unscrupulous people may swoop in to take advantage: taking over bank accounts, stealing cars, even homes. If your loved one is still driving, make sure that this is safe. If they’re living alone, maybe cooking isn’t the best idea; one forgotten pot on the stove might burn the house down. It might be time to hire a helper or explore other options like Meals on Wheels.
It’s vital to get legal support as soon as you think there’s a problem. You need to secure assets so that they can be used to care for your loved one.
Be realistic about what your loved one can handle. For instance, if loud noises or crowds have become overwhelming, consider quieter activities like walking in the park.
Keep your Loved One Engaged
Even with dementia, life can still be enjoyable. Seek out activities that your loved one enjoys and can still do: That might be a men’s group or a church choir. It might be a water aerobics class or a ball game. Throughout the dementia journey, our loved ones need to be active and engaged.
Don’t Forget Yourself
This stuff is hard. Be kind to yourself. Join a support group to voice your concerns and questions. Make sure to take time for self-care. You can’t help your loved one if you’re burned out and exhausted.
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