Opening up the conversation
Feeling concerned about the health of a family member, partner, or friend can feel very isolating. Noticing a change in personality, behaviour or memory loss in a loved one, can be a hard subject to broach. It is common for people with emerging symptoms to deny any changes and even to become frustrated and defensive when the subject is mentioned. They may be feeling concerned themselves and need some time to process their own fear.
Like most worrying and emotional subjects, communication is often the first step towards breaking those concerns down, into bite-sized pieces. It is important to note that not all cognition changes point towards a dementia diagnosis. There are many other conditions that can look like dementia but aren’t - these normally respond well to treatment, so a visit to the GP is vital to assess this. You may help your loved one to take the first step by opening the conversation with this point. Here are some more ideas for broaching the subject:
Consider mentioning one of the changes you’ve noticed first, so as not to overwhelm them.
Although you may approach an initial conversation with just one or two examples, it can be useful to keep a diary of events to refer to. This will also help in any visits to the GP, as they’ll often ask for examples of changes in your loved one’s behaviour.
Listen to their fears, they may too be feeling isolated, confused, and worried about their future.
Discuss the pros and cons of an early diagnosis of dementia with your loved one. Some people living with dementia can feel a sense of relief when finally given a diagnosis, whilst others may feel concerned about the impact of that diagnosis on their mental health. The Wayfinding service at Sage House can offer guidance on how to navigate this process, the practicalities of receiving a diagnosis and the emotional process that goes alongside.
Taking the next steps
If the GP has ruled out other causes and feels further assessment is required they will refer your loved one to the Dementia Assessment service. At this stage you will undertake a specific memory assessment and in some cases a brain scan may also be required before a diagnosis can be made. The GP will advise you both on how to approach a diagnosis of dementia, what help there is available and how to access it.
At Sage House our mission is to help as many people as possible to navigate the journey of dementia, both pre and post- diagnosis, supporting family, friends and carers. We understand that supporting someone living with cognition changes is hard. For many, it’s an entirely new and commonly daunting experience. Whilst you help your loved one negotiate an unknown path; you’re also living with your own fears for what the future holds. We offer a variety of options to support you on your own journey as carer, friend or family member and are there, every step of the way.
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.