What does diagnosis mean?
If you have recently been diagnosed with dementia, depending on the stage you’re at, the chances are that you’ll have started to experience some cognitive changes - even if those changes are mild. Diagnosis will mean different things to different people – after all we are all different. Some people will experience a huge sense of relief, as diagnosis means an explanation for behavioural or cognitive changes. For others, it may come as a shock. It is not uncommon to feel anger or anxiety post diagnosis, after all, the future does suddenly look very different to the one you’d likely imagined. Whether you are the person diagnosed or a family member you may also naturally feel fear and trepidation about what lies ahead.
However, you are feeling and whatever your circumstances, we’d recommend you chatting to one of our Wayfinders. They provide not only practical advice, but emotional support, for both the person living with dementia and their families, and they will help you navigate and plan for a future living with dementia.
It is normal to go through a process of adjustment, whilst you and your loved ones consider and accept the changes taking place. No one is born prepared for a life living with dementia, but it is important to remember that continuing to live your life in a positive way really is possible – we just need to find your own personal way.
What does it mean to Live Well?
Personal wellbeing is made up of several factors, which fall under two categories, physical and emotional welfare. We all rely on the same basic elements to enjoy life, whether that is a life living with dementia or not. For example, we all need a sense of connection to others, to have physical comfort, and a sense of personal identity. A diagnosis of dementia does not change who you are, and it doesn’t mean that you need to stop doing what you enjoy. Of course some activities may require some adaptation as time goes on but things that bring you happiness are still very real. Participation in the hobbies or interests you have always loved is a big part of feeding and maintaining your identity and can continue.
Positively living with dementia
Some symptoms, associated with certain types of dementia, such as memory loss, can undermine your confidence. You may find it helpful to put a regular routine in place. As human beings, we are creatures of habit and familiarity is often very reassuring. Eating a balanced diet, including some of the foods you already enjoy, and taking regular exercise can also help to support your general sense of wellbeing and build confidence with other activities. There are a range of activities available at Sage House which a Wayfinder can discuss with you.
You can also take some practical steps towards personal empowerment, such as making sure your home is equipped to protect your safety. Sage House has it’s own smart zone with different equipment and technology that might provide you more confidence around ongoing independent living and through the NHS, an occupational therapist can also advise on ways to stay independent and allow you to feel confident in your own home.
Whilst adjusting to life living with dementia does require a shift, focussing on what you can do, rather than what is changing, will help you to view the future more positively. Continue doing what you love, whether that’s socialising with friends, walking, painting or reading. Even in the more advanced stages of dementia, engaging with activities you enjoy is absolutely possible. Stimulation can take many forms, including listening to music, conversation about happy times, baking, card games and gentle exercise.
To reiterate, a diagnosis of dementia does not change you as a person. With a healthy lifestyle and the support of your network, you can continue doing what you love and doing what makes you, you.
Our Wayfinders can offer free advice and guidance for your whole dementia journey, even from before you have a formal diagnosis. The Wayfinders can also sign post to other services we work with to provide holistic, person-centred support.
If you have concerns about your loved one's memory, you can contact our Wayfinders on 01243 888691. They can support you and your loved ones for your whole journey with dementia, from pre-diagnosis to end of life care.