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How to Cope When You Learn that a Family Member has been Diagnosed with Dementia


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When a loved one receives a dementia diagnosis, it can be difficult for everyone. Whether you're planning to be a primary caregiver or are simply an involved family member, there are a number of things that you can do to help make the future a little bit easier. 

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1. Allow yourself to feel.

While it's understandable that you want to be strong and supportive in front of your loved one, it's important that you give yourself private time to come to terms with the diagnosis. Remember that you are entitled to feel whatever emotions are surfacing, including grief, anger and denial.

Take time to work through negative feelings early so that you can provide the love and support your family member needs.

2. Start planning now.

There are many forms of dementia, and some progress faster than others. Because there is no cure, the best thing to do is to begin planning for the future while your loved one still has the majority of his or her faculties.

This includes setting up power of attorney and making decisions about care and finances as soon as possible. It may be uncomfortable, but planning these things now can save a lot of future headache and heartache.

3. Educate yourself.

Take advantage of available resources to educate yourself about the type of dementia your loved one has been diagnosed with. Dementia is a blanket diagnosis, so it's important for you to know how your loved one's particular condition may affect them and what you can do to help.

4. Remember to give respect.

Even those with the best intentions can forget that their loved one still has his or her own thoughts, feelings, preferences and wishes despite the changes in mental capacity.

Your loved one may need more help with daily activities, and he or she may lose certain abilities, but you should always remember to give care with dignity and respect. Instead of focusing on what has been lost, maximize what remains. This will help your loved one feel valued and in control at a time when he or she likely feels helpless.

5. Be patient.

Patience is the number one coping strategy for anyone dealing with a loved one with dementia. It isn't always easy, but developing patience is the best way to keep yourself and your loved one happy.

You're Not Alone

A dementia diagnosis given to someone you love can be difficult, but don't forget that you're not alone. Don't hesitate to reach out to online and local Alzheimer's groups for advice and support.

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