Across the globe, more than 50 million people live with dementia. While many people in later years experience this condition, it is not a side-effect of ageing.
A dementia diagnosis can profoundly impact a person’s life, as well as the lives of their loved ones. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer disease which contributes up to 70% of diagnoses.
Someone who experiences a dementia diagnosis may feel a series of emotions- from anger and grief to shock and fear. Furthermore, they may find it hard to manage these emotions initially, putting them at risk of developing poor mental health, including illnesses such as anxiety and depression.
People with dementia and Alzheimer’s may experience changes in the way they respond to situations and others. Some may find that they have less control over the way they express themselves, leaving them to feel frustrated and irritable. Those who live with dementia may experience considerable mood swings- going from disassociated and uninterested to angry and upset. These drastic changes in emotions may negatively impact loved ones and carers, as they find these emotions challenging to deal with and unpredictable.
Alzheimer’s UK has also highlighted that a dementia diagnosis is sometimes met with stigma from the community and that a person with the condition may be treated differently by their peers. Dementia can impact a person’s socioeconomic status- they may find that they need to leave work which can negatively impact their finances. Dementia can have a knock-on effect on a person’s confidence, as they may feel unsure about their ability to carry out everyday tasks, such as cooking and washing.
A family member of one of our team at The Key Safe Company wanted to share their experience after receiving a dementia diagnosis:
‘As a person with vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s, I feel that I have lost all my confidence. Before I was an independent person; looking after my grandchildren, driving to the shops, and now having to rely on people simply is not me and is a challenge to let them help. I have ups and down days in which I am very sad, and other days I feel normal whatever normal is. My family are always there on hand to help, but I feel like I am a burden to them, and it should not be like this. Someday I am vacant and see things which are not there, but with support, I understand this is part of the condition and my family talk me through all the changes that are happening. I do wonder why me quite a lot. I struggle with simple tasks such as cooking for myself, I forget to eat, I forget my medication, and the concept of day and time has now gone. I am not as bad as some people now, but I do thank my lucky stars that I have support to help during my down days.’
Following diagnosis, there are ways in which a person living with dementia, as well as carers and loved ones, can improve their quality of life.
Talking about their experiences to loved ones as well as healthcare professionals can aid a person living with dementia to come to terms with their condition, as well as support them in feeling less alone. This form of support will also alleviate some feelings of anxiety and depression. Loved ones should not dismiss their feelings, even if they are challenging to understand or accept.
Encouragement and celebration of successes rather than criticism of difficulties will encourage those living with the condition. Avoid focussing on negatives or becoming frustrated at situations.
A healthy and active lifestyle will improve quality of life and can ease symptoms of depression and anxiety. By doing activities with friends and family, people living with dementia will feel less isolated and have more to look forward to.
If you or a loved one have recently been diagnosed with dementia, contact your local dementia care organisations, for further support and advice.