It is not an uncommon situation where one has met with the concern that a loved one is experiencing memory loss. We all have had experiences where we have walked into a room or started a conversation and completely blanked out and forgot what we were about to do. Such sorts of memory lapses are not uncommon and usually result when we are busy or tired or preoccupied. For some, however, these lapses are a little more concerning. For them, situations arise in which the affected individual feels confused and disoriented in familiar surroundings or forgets details such as the names of the people they live with. This is concerning for those living with the patient.
The early signs of Alzheimer’s and dementia present themselves in a way that makes it hard for anyone to detect the illness. Not knowing a common word, or struggling with a task or simply forgetting about what you were going to say are things we all experience. It is only when one notices an increase in memory lapses and baffling changes in one’s behavior and personality that we even consider seeking professional help.
- Why a Diagnosis is Crucial
As a family member or caregiver, your first protocol should be to seek professional help as soon as possible. An early expert medical opinion can play an integral role in one’s dementia diagnosis, treatment, as well as management. An excellent place to start would be to seek an online mental evaluation test. Taking brain tests is a great place to start. A proper diagnosis after a thorough evaluation is an arduous journey, to say the least.
Essentially a process of eliminating various factors, determinants, and outcomes to deduce the type of dementia one has, diagnosing the cause, nature, and degree of dementia one will help caregivers anticipate the subsequent changes owing to the illness better. Additionally, it will also help them plan for the perplexing and unpredictable journey that lies ahead.
When it comes to treatment, there are multiple modes of treatment that can slow the progression of this disease. After that initial shock, a thorough diagnosis is actually beneficial to the patient and their loved ones as they now have an answer to all the absurdities happening around them. This helps them commence planning on how to deal with dementia which in turn helps relieve them of the feeling of helplessness that results from not knowing why they are experiencing what they are experiencing.
- Talking About Dementia
While noticing these changes are worrisome for the people living with the affected individual, the person experiencing them is unaware of the changes ensuing within them. Confronting them and helping them realize these changes is perhaps the most challenging aspect of dealing with dementia. Acceptance takes time; therefore this conversation is most likely going to be very difficult and somewhat awkward.
Here is how you can take this big step with comfort and ease without making it too hard for both parties.
- A Time and Place
Make sure not to get a lot of people involved as it can get overwhelming for the affected individual. Sticking to a minimum number of people is best in this situation. The people everyone is always comfortable with our friends and family. When it comes to breaking the news, keep the people the person is closest to around. Choose a time and place that you feel might be good for both parties. Pick a time when you think the patient will not be too busy, distracted or tired. Mornings are usually a good time in most cases. Make sure that the setting is comfortable, quiet and familiar for the patient. Noise is distracting and can agitate as well as irritate the patient.
- Be Kind and Compassionate
Approaching an issue such as this is a challenging ordeal because the topic itself is quite sensitive. Most times the patient does not realize that anything is wrong with them. As these changes ensue in the mind of a dementia patient, it is likely that they lost the ability to garner insight into these changes or memory lapses. As someone who is about to break the news to them, it is essential to speak with compassion and concern. Pointing out what is wrong with someone is seldom pleasant so make sure to use kind words and approach the matter with warmth, understanding, and empathy.
- Discuss the Symptoms; not the Diagnosis
Putting a label on things is not always easy especially if you are confronting someone and informing them about them having a neurodegenerative disorder. In this case, make sure to discuss the symptoms with the patient and not the actual diagnosis. For a person to realize what is going on, list the factors instead of bombarding them with a word that might potentially induce panic, resentment, sorrow or anger in them. Tread lightly and calmly inform the patient about the changes you have been noticing so they can pay attention to it as well.
- Be Patience
Patience is a virtue, and in this scenario, it is necessary. Acceptance takes time and for one to understand the reality of a life-altering diagnosis will be a slow process. Talk to them, listen to them and their concerns and be understanding. It is natural that they will express what is going on in their minds. Instead of merely inflicting your opinion on them and not listening will do more harm than good. Help them realize and understand their condition with patience and kindness.
- Encourage Professional Help
Resistance towards seeing a doctor is routine with patients especially the ones battling neurological illness as well as mental health disorders. In such cases, it is important to be understanding and give them time to process things at their own pace. Suggest professional help because it is the only thing that will benefit them. If not that, then indirectly suggest going to a doctor for something else such as a routine health check such as blood pressure or blood glucose. Be sure to accompany them to the doctor so you can work the topic into the conversation and lead towards addressing it.
The life of an affected individual does change after their diagnosis but it in no way defines who they are. Dementia is an illness that does progressively get worse. Instead of sulking over it and completely letting go, one can choose to live their life on their own terms. Diagnosis can help empower patients and their families to take control of the situation so patients too can live their life to the fullest. It is crucial that one is supportive of anyone who they think might be experiencing symptoms of dementia. Free and open communication is the key to success in this scenario.
ABOUT Alycia Gordan
Alycia Gordan is a freelance writer who loves to read and write articles on healthcare technology, fitness, and lifestyle. She is a tech junkie and divides her time between travel and writing. You can find her on Twitter: @meetalycia