First steps after diagnosis
A diagnosis of dementia can come as a shock, no matter how much it is expected. It is hard for everyone concerned and reassurance and support are vital. The most important thing is to try to be positive and to know that you are not alone. There are people you can talk to and supports and services that can help.
Your GP will be an important person to support you to live well with dementia. You can talk to them about your dementia, about any medications and treatments you may be prescribed, about areas such as driving and about any symptoms that may emerge.
There are many way to live well with dementia. It may take some time to figure out what will work for you and what you want to do.
People with dementia who are members of the Irish Dementia Working Group have shared the following 6 steps they use to help them to live well:
Talk to people about dementia
It may feel like a daunting step but talking to your family and friends is very important. When you feel ready, you can decide how to do this. By talking about your diagnosis you can:
- explain how dementia affects you,
- explain what helps you to manage symptoms,
- reassure people that you are still the same person,
- highlight that you can still keep doing the things you want to do, and
- invite people to do things with you.
Your doctor can help you to tell your family about your diagnosis. You can also call the National Helpline at 1800 341 341 to talk things through.
Keeping active is important
You can continue to do things you enjoy or you can try something new. At times you may need help, or you might need to make some changes to help yourself.
You can contribute to your local clubs and groups. More and more towns and counties in Ireland are becoming Dementia Friendly Communities. That means people in shops, cafes, hotels, clubs and groups value your contribution and want you to remain involved in what they do.
Contact the Alzheimer’s National Helpline 1800 341 341 to find about projects in your area.
Connect with services and supports
In many parts of Ireland, there are supports and services that can help. The Alzheimer Society of Ireland provides the following:
- Dementia Advisers in a number of counties who can meet with you and talk to you about your needs.
- Alzheimer Cafes and social clubs.
- Home care services and day and respite centres in your community.
- Cognitive Stimulation Therapy for people with early and moderate dementia.
There are also a number of dementia projects running in different locations in Ireland. These projects all focus on living well with dementia and include a dementia choir, walking groups, exercise classes and much more. Find out what is available in your area visit our services in my county page or by calling our free and confidential Alzheimer National Helpline at 1800 341 341
Tips to manage day-to-day
There are positive steps you can take to help yourself with day-to-day life. For most people with dementia, changes happen gradually. You will have time to adjust and to find out what works for you. People with dementia recommend the following practical tips:
- Write things down
- Give yourself time
- Be patient with yourself
- Try to keep a routine
- Use a diary
- Keep important things in the same place
- Use technology to help you
- Ask your family and friends to help you
- Get to know your good times of day
- Eat healthily and keep hydrated
- Exercise (pick an activity that you enjoy)
- Make time to relax and rest
- Enjoy life and enjoy the good moments
- Laugh as a sense of humour is important
For more information:
Driving and dementia
A diagnosis of dementia does not automatically mean have to stop driving. Over time, dementia does affect our ability to drive. Some people choose to stop driving themselves. Others would like to continue to drive. If you want to drive after your diagnosis, you need to:
- inform your insurance company that you have been diagnosed. (You will not be insured if you do not do this. Your insurance company can tell you the steps you need to take in order to continue to drive.)
- inform your Driving Licence Authority that you have been diagnosed. You can find your local centre on www.ndls.ie.
- successfully complete an ‘on-road’ driving assessment. This assessment is not like the learner driving test. It usually involves an assessor accompanying you as you drive in your local area to assess your ability to drive safely. This assessment may need to be repeated at agreed intervals, usually every six months.
Plan for the future
At any time planning for the future can feel overwhelming. When you are dealing with your diagnosis of dementia, it may feel like the last thing you want to do. But making decisions early is important. Planning for the future includes:
- sorting out your financial affairs, savings, income and debt,
- talking to a solicitor about your will and your legal affairs, and
- talking to your family and doctors about your wishes and preferences.