Receiving the news that a partner, friend or family member has a diagnosis of dementia may come as a devastating shock to some, while for others it may confirm what they already suspected, providing an explanation for the changes they had been seeing in the person. Either way, a diagnosis of dementia marks a significant point in people’s lives where the reality of living life with dementia is faced. How people respond to this challenge is going to be varied and unique, however, there are some key things people can do for themselves to assist with the transitions and adjustments that are part of supporting someone with dementia.
Knowledge is power
Understanding what dementia is and how to be responsive to the needs of people with dementia is a significant first step to living well with dementia. Negative stereotypes and stigma can have an adverse effect on how people react to a diagnosis of dementia. Challenging these stereotypes can bring about more energy and hope. While there is no cure for dementia there are lifestyle factors that can help people with dementia to live well; exercise, diet, social connectedness and a sense of meaning and purpose are all important. Education opportunities at Dementia Canterbury provide care partners with the chance to gain knowledge and skills as well as connect with others. Dementia Canterbury offers a course Making A Difference several times each year, specifically for family members and Care Partners.
Feedback from care partners who have attended educations courses:
"As my husband has had Dementia for some time I thought I knew most things, but surprising how much additional information came out of the instructions"
"I appreciated the diversity of experience each participant offered which allowed me to recognise the complexity of this disease and its huge span. All the resources are wonderful! I'm so grateful."
"I've found it so helpful - some supportive ideas, suggestions for the "now", and also preparations for the future."
Feel the feelings
Dementia inevitably brings changes to everyday life and these can be experienced as stressful and unwelcome. While supporting a person with dementia can be enormously rewarding, it is important to acknowledge some of the difficulties and attend to these as they arise. For example, if the grief surrounding changes is not acknowledged and processed, a care partner may miss out on appreciating the many abilities the person with dementia still retains. An important part of processing difficult feelings can be through talking with others, whether that is a friend, a social worker or a support group.
Talk with others
For people supporting someone with dementia a sense of loneliness and isolation can sometimes arise. Meeting with other people who are in the same boat can be a powerful way of cutting through that isolation and finding support. To find out about carer support groups click here.
Feedback from people attending carer support groups:
"This group is a “port in my storm” each month"
"So good to be with others and being welcomed – the information is excellent"
"I feel less alone. Listening to others. I feel up to date"