People with dementia may feel confused and anxious and in need of reassurance. They may also have some important decisions to make, including:

  • How and when to tell family and friends of the diagnosis
  • Whether to carry on working
  • When to stop driving
  • How they would like to be cared for, now and in the future

There may also be joint decisions you both need to make – about money, for example.

Try to talk to the person you are caring for, offering as much emotional support as you can. The person may want to involve you in such decision-making.

Having a diagnosis usually raises as many questions as it answers. What will happen in the future? What can be done to help? Why has this happened? Will other members of the family develop the same problems?

Don’t be afraid to ask – your GP or specialist is a good place to start, or contact your local branch of Alzheimer’s South Africa. You could also contact the Alzheimer’s helpline on 0860 102 681. Having a name for the person’s problems can be helpful, but you will need as much information as possible if you want to plan for the future.

What can be done at this stage?
You and the person with dementia may want to think about the following issues:

  • Are there any treatments available that will help the person’s dementia or treat other conditions that have been identified? If the person has vascular dementia, what can be done to prevent further damage? Discussion of these issues with the specialist is an important follow-up to the diagnosis.
  • You may want to think about your medical support in the future. Does the specialist or the clinic provide a follow-up service or only the assessment? A good working relationship with the doctor is invaluable.
  • Some families also discuss people’s preferences about their future care, at this stage. Do they want to be cared for in a home, for example? This sort of discussion is often put off, but may be of great value when openly and honestly talked through.
  • Persons with dementia may wish to write down their wishes regarding their treatment and care in the future, when they may not be able to communicate their wishes. This document, commonly referred to as a living will, may not be used as a legal document. It serves as a guideline for the carer and family when the time comes for decisions to be made concerning the person with dementia, so that his or her wishes can be taken into consideration.
  • Are there financial matters that need to be discussed and sorted out? A Power of Attorney may be obtained whilst the person with dementia is ‘of sound mind’. Once the person is unable to handle his or her affairs, because of the dementia, the Power of Attorney becomes invalid and other options need to be considered.
  • You might like to find out now what other practical support and advice is available in your area for both you and the person with dementia. It makes sense to try to arrange help before a crisis occurs. More