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Things to consider

Older persons' rights

http://www.saopf.org.za/charter.html is well worth visiting. The Older Persons Charter can be found there in Afrikaans, English, isiZulu, isiXhosa and Sesotho.

Talking things over

  • You will need to discuss plans for the future with those closest to you.
  • If your family and friends do not already know, try to tell them as soon as possible. They may not believe you at first, because they are so upset by the news. Try to discuss matters in a calm way.
  • It helps if you can talk about your own wishes for the future, but do not ask people for promises that they may find hard to keep.
  • It may help if you can find someone you can trust outside the family to talk about your feelings rather than bottling them up.

Putting your affairs in order

  • Now is the time to make sure that any important documents such as your mortgage or rent agreement, insurance policies and bank statements are in order and can be found easily. Go through all the details with a relative or trusted friend.
  • Sort out any recent bills, regular payments and business.
  • Look at your will and make sure it expresses your wishes, or make a new will.
  • Give your spouse or child a Power of Attorney to manage your affairs in your best interests, if you have not already done so. Note that the Power of Attorney is invalid once the principal is no longer fully capable of understanding it. For more information about legal options, please email info@alzheimers.org.za or phone our helpline.

Work

  • If you are still at work, you are probably finding it stressful. There may be an opportunity to change to a less demanding job or to decrease your hours. Whatever the situation, you will probably need to think about leaving work fairly soon.
  • You will need expert advice on your pension rights, if a pension is due to you, and on the possibility of negotiating a lump sum payment.
  • Before leaving work, check on benefits that you or your family may be entitled to.

Services

  • Look at what services are available. Even if you don't need them now, they may be useful in the future. Those closest to you should not have to take on all the responsibility. They will need time to themselves.
  • Find out from Alzheimer's South Africa what services are available to you and your partner.
  • Find out what kinds of services and local voluntary organisations or groups provide support.
  • For those whose low income qualifies them, there is a state grant-in-aid for older citizens who need full-time attendance by another party, because of mental or physical disability. This grant is worth R250 pm. A social worker must assist the person or family to apply.


Health

  • It is important to take good care of your health. Having dementia does not mean you should feel ill so always check with your doctor if you are unwell.
  • This is important as any illness can make you feel more confused and forgetful.
    Try to eat balanced meals and take regular exercise.
  • Discuss with your doctor the use of alcohol as it might make you more disoriented.
  • If you are on medication, ask your doctor to check whether it is really necessary as some drugs can increase confusion.
  • Poor vision or hearing or painful teeth, gums or dentures can make it more difficult for you to cope with what is going on. Regular eye, hearing and dental checks are important.

Driving

If you drive, you may have to give up doing so, either now or in the near future. You should also check with your insurance company to see whether you are still covered. More on the subject of driving.

Memory

Don't be afraid to ask questions or say that you have not understood or have forgotten what has been said. It is not your fault if you can't remember as well as you used to. Look for ways to aid your memory by:

  • Placing helpful telephone numbers by the phone.
  • Putting labels on cupboards or drawers to remind you where things are.
  • Writing reminders for yourself to lock the door at night or put out the rubbish on Wednesday, for example.
  • Putting things you use frequently, such as your keys or glasses, in an obvious place such as a large bowl in the sitting room.

Routine

Try to take things at a slower pace. That way you may be able to continue to do more things for yourself, even if it takes longer. Doing things at the same time each day or each week can also be reassuring but do try to continue visiting people and going on short holidays.

Enjoying life

You may find that some of your previous interests are too stressful or demanding but there are probably many activities that can still give you pleasure.

  • Try to find things to do that you still enjoy.
  • Caring for a pet can be very satisfying and taking a dog for a walk is a good way of getting regular exercise.
  • Conversations between lots of people can be hard to follow. You may find it more enjoyable if friends or family visit one or two at a time.
  • Concentrate on those things that you can still do rather than worrying about those you can't.