A diagnosis of dementia will have a big impact on a person, their carer and their family. When you are diagnosed with dementia, you can start having treatment and planning ahead.
How will the disease progress?
In the early stages of dementia, many people are able to carry on looking after themselves and their homes like before.
There are some practical things you can do when you are first diagnosed. These include preparing your home so it is safe and comfortable, and finding out about care options, including residential care, for the future.
You can also consider writing an Advance Care Plan. This will help your family or carer know what treatment you want if you can't communicate it later. You can also plan ahead to manage your money and legal matters. For more information, Dementia Australia have a help sheet on planning ahead.
As the illness gets worse, people may find it more difficult to manage on their own. They will need help with things like housework and shopping. People with dementia may also need more changes to their home to keep themselves safe, mobile and independent.
Driving with dementia
Some people with dementia give up driving because they find it stressful, while others continue driving for some time. If they continue driving, they must tell the licensing authority that they have dementia. People with dementia must give up driving when their symptoms have become bad enough to make them unsafe drivers.
Working with dementia
It can be hard for someone with dementia to manage at work. Like anyone with a serious illness, you are entitled to special consideration at work. You could consider talking to your employer about changing parts of your job to make things easier. At some point you are likely to leave work. Before you make the decision, it is important to get advice so you know about your benefits and entitlements. For more information, Dementia Australia have a help sheet on making employment decisions.
Improving quality of life
It is important to look after your health when you have dementia. Eat a healthy diet, have enough physical activity, get plenty of rest and limit how much alcohol you drink.
There are plenty of strategies you can use to help you live with memory loss and manage your life. For example, you can keep a notebook with everything you need to remember for the day, label cupboards and drawers with names or pictures of their contents, or use a whiteboard to write important things. Give yourself more time to do things and don't be afraid to ask other people for help. For more information, Dementia Australia have a help sheet on looking after yourself.
Keeping in contact with others is good for people with dementia. Hobbies and interests will help keep people alert and stimulated so they maintain an interest in life. Simple, unhurried pastimes that give you pleasure and relaxation are best. You or a carer should make sure they are safe and that you do them at a time of day that suits you.
People with dementia may need to take new medicines prescribed by their doctor, or start having therapies to help with their understanding and communication and to manage their symptoms.
If you are caring for someone with dementia, it is very important to consult with the person's doctor if they are considering taking any medicines, including alternative medicines.
Supporting someone with dementia
There are practical things you can do to support a person with dementia. For example, you can:
- prepare your home to provide a safe and comfortable home environment find out how dementia changes a person's behaviour, and how to cope with these changes
- find out about care options, including residential care
- find out about looking after yourself as a carer or family member of a person with dementia, including managing stress and finding support
A good place to start finding information about dementia is Dementia Australia. They can provide you with information about different types of dementia and about what support services are available. They also produce help sheets especially for family and friends, which provide information about dementia and ways to help.
Visit the Dementia Australia website or call the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.
Last reviewed: October 2018