Living with Alzheimer’s or Dementia

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Being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another kind of dementia can be frightening and difficult. However, by using these techniques, you’ll be able to live a fuller life for longer.

After the initial shock of receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or another kind of dementia, you now have additional concerns. How can you go on with your life while having the condition? Will you be defined by it? How will you handle the sickness as it worsens?

Yes, you are experiencing a change in your life. But you can still lead a happy life. And you can still come up with methods to reinforce who you are. You can even set new objectives, meet new people, and look for fresh joys. Consider this a new chapter in your life, and be open to all the possibilities.

But as you enter this new stage of life, you’ll need to adjust to a number of changes, including:

  • Alterations to your social life
  • Modifications to your mood, focus, and memory
  • Alterations to your sleep patterns
  • Your physical capabilities change

Look for Assistance

Making sure you won’t have to deal with these changes alone is the first important step. Look for support from family, friends, or a qualified caregiver. They don’t have to constantly watch over you or manage all of your business. 

Even when you are in the early stages of dementia, maintaining your sense of independence is essential. However, it’s never too early to get your loved ones ready to assist you with future activities that you might find challenging, like managing funds or resolving legal issues.

A caregiver will become more crucial in your life as Alzheimer’s or dementia worsens. Bring them along when you go to the doctor or when you need to consult a financial planner or a lawyer so they can prepare for the future.

Changing with the Times

You may have observed a shift in the way people interact with you after receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or another kind of dementia. Some friends may appear to be drifting apart. Or perhaps relatives are reluctant to confide in you.

In other situations, individuals could act as if they are totally powerless to accomplish anything on their own. You can feel depleted of your typical duties in the lives of other people.

The stigma associated with dementia is mostly a result of people’s ignorance and fear of the condition. But it can really affect your sense of self-worth, mental health, and general quality of life.

But there is a positive side to this. You’re in a special position to combat the stigma and improve the lives of those who are in a similar situation.

Inform others. Information may combat ignorance. Obtain a few reliable resources on dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, then make them available to friends and family. You’ll probably feel more comfortable describing the disease to others as you become more knowledgeable about it yourself. You can share your personal experiences as well as the facts concerning dementia.

Promote your own interests. Being open and honest about your needs, desires, and limitations is another method to combat the stigma associated with dementia. Inform individuals of your capabilities and potential areas of need. I appreciate your concern, but I can handle this duty. You can respond if a family member appears to be exercising excessive control. But here’s where you may assist me.

Be ready to handle how other people react. You have no control over how the people in your life respond to your diagnosis; some may do so in unexpected ways. They might start to distance themselves from you or exclude you from activities, for instance. This can be a result of their own concerns or incapacity to accept the information.

Allow yourself time to mourn the passing of such relationships, but keep in mind that stronger ties will persist. Put your attention back on the ones who will always be there for you.

Establishing Community

Living healthily with dementia or Alzheimer’s requires social interaction. Even while you’ll want to continue to be involved in the lives of your family and old acquaintances, you can also keep growing your social network.

Seek out the assistance of other dementia sufferers as a peer support system. You get the chance to converse with others who can connect to your experiences in person or in online groups. Additionally, you can exchange and receive helpful advice on adjusting to this new period of life.

Of course, discussions regarding dementia don’t often take center stage in these meetings. Some people enjoy calming and artistic pastimes like painting projects or nature hikes. You can socialize regardless of the activity without worrying that others are treating you any differently or passing judgment on you because of your disease.

Adapting to Memory Alterations

You can feel nervous and impatient as a result of the forgetfulness and moments of bewilderment that accompanies early dementia. When you have trouble recalling events or making snap judgments, you could feel furious with yourself. Your sense of security and comfort can be increased by consistency.

Establish a dependable habit by taking action. On a regular basis, take a shower, get dressed, have breakfast, engage in hobbies, and do duties.

Use tools for organization. You can stay organized by using tools like calendars, notebook planners, and electronic organizers. As part of your habit, keep your organizer in the same location every day. To help you stay on track, you can also create recurring reminders on your phone.

Use mnemonics. The presence of visual clues throughout their living surroundings can be useful for certain people with dementia. To indicate where specific clothing items or culinary tools are located, use bright labels or signage. A benefit of transparent storage systems is that you can see what’s inside a drawer without having to open it.

Automation of Work

Increased reliance on technology is another strategy for managing memory changes. Make a list of all the things that you can automate. You could automate utility and insurance bill payments, for instance. Request the assistance of a family member or trustworthy friend to check on the payments from time to time. To make life easier, you can also install add-ons like automatic pill dispensers or pillboxes with alarms.

Charging to Account Shifts in Attention Span

Another symptom of Alzheimer’s and other dementias is diminished focus. It could become more challenging for you to finish routine chores when your attention span shortens. Finding strategies to focus more narrowly and clear your head is more crucial than ever.

Cut back on interruptions. When you have devices like smartphones, laptops, and televisions scattered throughout your home, it’s simple to get information overload. When you need to concentrate on a particular task, put your electronics aside. When you do use technology, be aware of how many apps or Internet browser tabs are open at once.

Lessen the distractions from the environment. If radios or televisions keep disturbing your thoughts, turn them off. If you’re uncomfortable, change the lighting or temperature of the room. If you’re in public and finding it difficult to focus due to the noise around you, choose a quieter location.

Monotask. You are more prone to make mistakes or overlook something when you alternate between duties, such as texting and watching TV. Multitasking can even be risky if one of the chores, like cooking, has the potential to be dangerous. Instead:

  • Make it a habit to concentrate on one thing at a time.
  • Decide what is most essential to you right now, whether it is completing paperwork, reading a book, or putting clothes away.
  • Work on the assignment but don’t rush. Give yourself permission to take a break and return to the activity later if you’re feeling frustrated.

Don’t be embarrassed to delegate duties that demand rapid judgment and heightened focus, like traveling to new locations or to others when it is essential. Recognizing your limitations is not anything to be ashamed of.

Adapting to Mood Swings

Your capacity to manage your emotions and restrain urges may be impacted by dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Perhaps you’re feeling more agitated or anxious than usual. Your emotions could occasionally seem to swing wildly, as happiness is followed by despair and then rage. Or perhaps the anxiety or depression that accompanied the first diagnosis is still bothering you.

You could use a variety of techniques to control your mood.

Decide what stresses you out. Perhaps doing your taxes makes you upset, or going grocery shopping by yourself makes you feel stressed and overwhelmed. Give such responsibilities to friends, relatives, or a carer.

Be aware of how others may be impacted by your emotional changes. When you’re confused and irritated, you can find yourself snapping at the people you care about. Recognize that your impaired impulse control is most certainly the result of dementia. Your family members ought to be aware of this as well and collaborate with you to develop stress-reduction strategies.

Take up calming pastimes. Whether you like birdwatching, listening to music, or fishing, keep engaging in the activities that give you a sense of stability. It could be helpful to start some new routines, such as journaling or meditation.

How to Adjust to Changes in Sleep

A quarter to a third of Alzheimer’s patients reports having trouble sleeping. Sleep disruptions can be caused by a number of things, such as circadian rhythm changes and drugs for dementia. Lack of sleep can hasten brain deterioration in addition to making you irritated and inattentive.

The following suggestions for good sleep hygiene may be helpful:

  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same times every day. Make sure to include this in your daily regimen.
  • Have a routine for unwinding at night, such as reading or listening to your favorite music.
  • Don’t give in to the impulse to take extended naps all day. This may disrupt your sleep pattern.
  • Your bedroom should be cold, quiet, and dark. For the majority of people, a pleasant temperature is around 65 degrees F, or 18 degrees C.
  • Before going to bed, avoid coffee. According to certain studies, caffeine consumption up to six hours before night may interfere with slumber.

Managing Sleep Disturbances

You’ll find that sleep disturbances can still happen despite your best attempts. You can feel uncertain about the time of day and your location when you wake up in the middle of the night. Have a digital clock nearby your bed. AM and PM indicators should be present, and the display should be simple to read. Also, put familiar items on the nightstand, like family photos, to provide an instant sense of security and comfort.

Utilize nightlights wisely and keep your floor spotless to lower the chance of falls. It will also be less likely that you may see strange shadows in your bedroom, which might be disconcerting if you wake up feeling disoriented.

Adjusting to Bodily Changes

Your balance and movement may be affected in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease or similar dementia. Although these physical changes may be disappointing, you don’t have to give up on an active way of life.

You might even want to exercise more than you did before the diagnosis. According to studies, frequent cardio or aerobic exercise may lessen the pace of decline in the hippocampus, a region of the brain linked to learning and memory. Exercise can also help you focus better, feel more confident, and manage depression and anxiety.

Here are some pointers for keeping active while managing dementia:

Create reasonable expectations. You are not required to push yourself through a demanding 30-minute workout. Reaching your target of 30 minutes of daily activity can also be accomplished by performing shorter routines throughout the day.

Keep your motions in mind. Stick to sitting exercises and routines that include gentle movements, like tai chi, if you have trouble keeping your balance.

Consider the possibilities of routine tasks. You don’t have to go to the gym or run marathons. Exercise includes things like going on a walk with friends, dancing with your significant other, and planting in the backyard.

Recognizing Alterations in Sexual Well-being and Intimacy

Sex is a different kind of physical activity you can keep enjoying. It’s normal for older folks to worry about how their performance may suffer. Additionally, if you have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, you can notice a shift in your sexual demands and desires. You might, for instance, notice a change in your level of sexual interest.

Discussion on it. Being open with your spouse is crucial, especially when your needs and worries evolve. Though not all conversations must be serious. Both of you can unwind with some lighthearted conversation as you become more aware of one another’s wants.

Describe intimacy and sex in more detail. Think about alternatives to sex, like reading erotica together, kissing, and massage. Try several things and have an open mind to see what works best for you and your spouse.

Boost your self-assurance. Although talking to your partner is crucial, you should also think about your own inner dialogue. Your sex drive may be stifled if you have a low opinion of your appearance or abilities. Practice letting goes of emotions of inadequacy and accepting your natural changes.

Securing Your Environment

Along with keeping active, you should consider your physical security. You still have a lot of control over your surroundings if you live at home. Make some adjustments to keep your home secure and simple for you to navigate.

Look for opportunities to streamline the area’s design and use. This can help reduce any potential risks and make it simpler to keep track of everything.

Get rid of anything extra. Try to get rid of or donate extra goods, whether they are furniture pieces you hardly ever use or cartons of worn-out apparel and accessories. This can lower your chance of losing the things you do use frequently. Additionally, you’ll have less clutter, which reduces the risk of falls, fires, and other hazardous circumstances.

Eliminate fall dangers. Throw rugs enhance the appearance of a space but can also be dangerous. In reality, elderly persons frequently sustain injuries from rugs and carpets. Reduce the number of throw rugs you use throughout the house or get rid of them altogether to get a more unified appearance. Be sure to take care of any electrical cords or other objects that could lead to falls.

Install security measures. Numerous home safety tools can also aid in lowering the risk of falls. For instance, make sure your tub or shower has safety bars and that your stairways have sturdy handrails. Purchase a fall monitor so that it can notify your loved ones in case of an accident.

Consult an occupational therapist. A specialist can take a look at your space and offer personalized suggestions on making your home safer.

Finding a New Sense of Purpose

In the early stages of Alzheimer’s or another dementia, you may begin to feel stripped of your sense of purpose. This may be due to new limitations caused by the disease or the way other people perceive your limitations. For example, family members may hesitate to let you babysit grandkids following your diagnosis. Or maybe issues with your memory or balance prevent you from playing sports or coaching as you once did.

Even when you can no longer do all the activities you enjoyed before, by reassessing your sense of purpose, you can find a way to bring your goals and your current abilities into alignment. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

What did you use to love? Think of passions and activities that you pursued when you were younger. Exist any strategies for picking up those interests again? Perhaps you were fascinated by movies or art. You may offer your assistance by selling tickets at a nearby theatre or hanging up posters. Did you enjoy preparing substantial meals for your family? Create a cookbook for future generations by beginning to assemble your recipes and cooking advice.

What interests you? Allow your curiosity to lead you to a fresh feeling of happiness and meaning. What has always piqued your interest? It’s never too late to start engaging in new artistic endeavors. Think about enrolling in classes in pottery, painting, or photography. Developing new talents might help keep your mind engaged.

What can you do to aid others? Focusing on the needs of others can occasionally be the finest approach to discovering new purposes in life. Consider your neighborhood and ask yourself, “What is missing?” What services can you provide for those nearby? Consider taking part in a nearby food or book drive. You might also take up a position as a public speaker and educate people about dementia or any other illness you believe deserves more attention.

Additional Measures to Improve Dementia Care

You can adjust to the numerous changes you’ll go through by using the tactics mentioned above. But there are also other actions you can do to assist in reducing the rate of brain degradation.

Keep your Heart Safe

A decline in brain health is associated with arterial stiffness. Fortunately, you have access to a wide range of lifestyle options to enhance your cardiovascular fitness. You may, for instance, cut back on your sodium consumption, give up smoking, or engage in regular resistance or aerobic activity.

Adopt a Balanced Diet

According to research, eating a Mediterranean-style diet or a version thereof may prevent cognitive deterioration. Put less emphasis on red meat and more on seafood, fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and legume-based foods. Additionally, a diet like this one can help your heart.

Maintain Stress Control

High levels of stress can hasten dementia and exacerbate its symptoms. Regularly engage in stress-relieving exercises like yoga, deep breathing, or meditation. Your heart health can also be improved by managing your stress.

Get your Brain Going

According to research, mental exercise can support and enhance cognitive performance. There are many methods for stimulating the brain. A book of hard riddles and mental teasers should be opened. Put a puzzle together. Play a brand-new board game. You can also set a goal for yourself to acquire new talent or hone an old one.

Evaluating your Changing Demands

You’ll probably find that your limitations and needs continue to change as Alzheimer’s or dementia worsens. List the duties you want to assign to others on a regular basis. Maybe one day, you’ll wish to completely entrust your financial affairs to someone else. Or you might elect to move in with family members or into an assisted living facility. A further stage in adjusting to changes is placing your trust in a caretaker.

Keep valuing your independence up until then. Continue to explore opportunities to further your legacy, maintain an active mind and body, and positively influence the people around you.

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