Home Instead® shares considerations when noticing signs of dementia in an ageing loved one
during World Alzheimer’s Month
Danette Connolly, National Clinical Lead, Home Instead Ireland
September 2022 – In Ireland, over 64,000 people are currently living with dementia, and many are undiagnosed. Additionally, over 180,000 people are currently or have been carers for a family member or partner living with dementia with many more providing support and care in other ways. Stigma and uncertainty lead many to avoid seeking medical attention for their symptoms. Yet proper diagnosis can lead to a better understanding of how to manage the disease for optimal outcomes. This World Alzheimer’s Month, Home Instead and Alzheimer’s Disease International are encouraging post-diagnosis support for people living with dementia and their loved ones.
Changes in an ageing adult’s behaviour are often evident to caregivers, family members, and friends who know them best. However, deciding what to do after observing signs of dementia can be complicated to navigate.
“When observing changes in a loved one’s memory, trust your instinct and seek a professional opinion,” said Danette Connolly, National Clinical Lead at Home Instead Ireland. Receiving any diagnosis can be overwhelming, but it can be validating to an older adult trying to make sense of their experience. Diagnosis is a powerful tool that allows people living with dementia to actively participate in the planning of their future. Diagnosis also supports referrals to support that is specific to the care needs of the person living with dementia. And many continue to live happy, fulfilling lives with adjustments that help them thrive.”
Recognising and confronting early signs is a critical first step. Difficulty with daily tasks, such as telling time, holding, or following conversations, getting overwhelmed by making choices, asking repetitive questions, and difficulty with depth perception are all common signs of dementia. It’s a common misconception that these symptoms are just a normal part of getting older. When noticing these signs, an open conversation with the ageing loved one and their known healthcare professionals can answer looming questions and benefit their path forward.
“When it is time to have this difficult discussion, loved ones should think carefully about their approach and manage the conversation delicately,” Connolly said. “Consider who the right person is to broach the topic, and lead with questions rather than what might feel like accusations. If your loved one is not receptive at first, be patient and continue to try.”
A medical diagnosis understandably triggers a wide range of emotions for the older adult and their loved ones. While dementia is daunting, Connolly outlines the benefits of seeking a medical diagnosis and provides guidance for initial steps.
- Adapting to the New Normal and Expanding One’s Knowledge. A diagnosis offers the chance to adjust to one’s health condition rather than remaining in the unknown. Deconstructing preconceived notions of dementia not only eases hesitations but can better equip loved ones to provide support and quality care for life after a diagnosis.
- Collaborating on a Plan for the Future. Dementia can feel isolating, but it does not have to be faced alone. Gather with family and friends to hear directly from your loved one on how they wish to proceed with their care. Discuss how to manage difficult topics such as driving, medication management, and living environment. Assess their budget and daily schedule to prepare for the journey ahead.
- Considering Continued Care. While there is not yet a cure for dementia, many care options are available to improve quality of life. Research is constantly broadening knowledge of the disease. Encouraging individuals living with dementia to seek out specialists could lead to opportunities to participate in clinical trials or access medication that eases symptoms. Professional care options may also be the right fit. Professional caregivers who are trained in person-centered dementia care help ease cognitive and behavioural symptoms and enhance safety in the home while preserving the loved one’s dignity. When considering continued care, it is helpful to gather any documentation needed, such as a form of identification or confirmation of diagnosis.
- Accurate Diagnosis. Seeking a professional opinion may reveal causes for symptoms that are unrelated to dementia, such as a concussion, dehydration, or an infection. Many of these symptoms can be alleviated with proper treatment.
The process of having a dementia screening, receiving a diagnosis, and adapting to a new lifestyle is unique to each individual. Home Instead offers a range of information and resources. For more about information on the services, a CAREGiver can provide for people living with dementia, visit HomeInstead.ie today. If you are interested in a career in care, Home Instead offers City and Guilds accredited Dementia training to Home Instead CAREGivers, apply today at Careers.HomeInstead.ie