A diagnosis of dementia is life changing, scary and overwhelming – it may be very difficult to take everything in.  We wanted to provide support through this article, helping individuals and loved ones to navigate not only the more practical things like making a will and power of attorney, but also offering advice on potentially delaying symptoms of dementia through changes in lifestyle, exercise and eating a more balanced diet.

Most importantly, this is a piece of life changing news.  Give yourself and your loved ones time to adjust to exactly what this diagnosis means for you. Having someone to talk to is vital for you and your family and friends.  Dementia UK and Alzheimer’s Society both have helplines available to offer support and provide a person to chat to if you need – we’ve included the numbers at the bottom of our blog so you can reach out to them if you’d like.

What needs to be done?  Make a list of practical tasks to complete so that you can get them out of the way and enjoy some quality time with your family and loved ones.  For example, you’ll need to tell the DVLA – you won’t necessarily have to give up driving, but it’s essential that they’re informed.  You might also want to look at making a will if you don’t have one already.  Another option is to grant your loved ones power of attorney, allowing them to help you with important decisions further along in your dementia journey.  Power of attorney doesn’t come into play until such time as you are unable to make decisions for yourself, so for the time being, you will continue to do things for yourself.

In addition to granting power of attorney and completing a will, an advanced decision is something you might want to consider.  This confirms your thoughts and views now and outlines the practicalities of what you would like to happen in the future.  An advanced decision would be where you make a decision now on what treatments or interventions you might like in the future.  It allows you to refuse hospital admission, treatments or CPR for example.

Following your diagnosis, you may feel shocked, numb and isolated.  You may feel helpless, as though there is nothing you can do.  In fact, there are a great deal of things you can do to slow down dementia and retain your quality of life as long as possible.

The first key is living a healthy lifestyle.  Reduce your alcohol intake, quit smoking, eat more fresh vegetables and reduce the amount of red meat in your diet. In addition to this, get regular exercise.  Thirty minutes of exercise per day, even if it’s just a walk, will help you to slow down dementia.

Most importantly though, once you’ve had time to process your diagnosis, enjoy your time with family and friends.  Make a big list of everything you’ve ever wanted to do and start working through it.  Any dementia diagnosis is a shock, but once you’ve worked through the practicalities, spend time doing exactly what you want to. Further along your dementia journey, it might become time to consider if you are safe to live at home or whether it’s worth looking for a suitable specialist dementia home.

Balazs Liszka

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