Although cancer, heart attacks, and strokes are more common and kill far more people, dementia remains America’s most feared illness. Our memories make us who we are, and losing them is terrifying. But dementia is a slow, progressive illness. Many people live for many years before it affects their ability to function. But even when it does, you are still you. You’ll have good days and bad days, just like always. Building a support network now can help prepare you for what’s ahead. Here’s how to do it.
Get Legal Support
It might seem daunting or even morbid, but getting your legal affairs in order now can save your family immense stress down the road. If you’re no longer able to make decisions, you don’t want a court making those decisions for you. And you certainly don’t want to leave your family guessing as to your final wishes. Find an elder care lawyer and discuss:
- Whom you want making your medical decisions if you are unable to
- Whether you want to assign a power of attorney to someone else to manage your finances when the time comes
- How you want your assets divided when you die
- What you can do to protect your assets while you’re alive if you need long-term care or must apply for Medicaid
Connect to Other People Who Are Living with Dementia
Talking to other people who are living with dementia can help the illness seem less frightening. It can also set reasonable expectations, because the truth is that dementia is not just a disease of the memory. Try joining a local dementia support group so you can see the continuum of symptoms the disease causes and ask people who are living with dementia which strategies have worked best for them. You can find a local support group through the Alzheimer’s Association.
It’s also helpful to learn as much as you can about dementia. Second Wind Dreams offers a virtual dementia tour, while Teepa Snow offers practical insights for supporting people with dementia. “Dementia Reimagined” offers a hopeful guide to life with dementia. It may help you plan for a brighter dementia future.
Get Support from Loved Ones
Now is the time to tighten up your support network. Let loved ones know about your diagnosis, and don’t shy away from asking them for help and support. Having challenging conversations now can actually make dementia easier as it progresses. Be sure to discuss:
- Your views on end-of-life care
- Your biggest fears, and how your loved ones can help easer those fears
- What is most important to you as the disease progresses? Do you still want to garden every day? Spend time with pets? Be included in family functions? Think deeply about what a meaningful life with dementia looks like, and start planning for it now
- What you want your loved ones to know. Is there anyone you need to make amends with? Do you have a message for the people you love the most? How do you hope to be remembered?
Plan for Your Long-Term Care
Many seniors dread the day their memories start to fail. But memory is just one component of who you are — not the whole story. You can still enjoy life. You can still have meaningful relationships. So think about which strategies will empower you to continue to live a good life. For many seniors, memory care offers a perfect choice, blending meaningful activities with the kind of attention, support, and care that can make life with dementia less challenging.
You are not alone. The Arbor Company has helped seniors navigate this journey for more than 30 years. We can help you craft your best life with dementia. For more help planning, download our free guide, "Living Well with Dementia"