Living well with dementia
Dementia can affect all aspects of a person's life, as well as those around them.
If you have been diagnosed with dementia, it's important to remember that:
- you're still you, even though you have problems with memory, concentration and planning
- everyone experiences dementia differently
- focusing on the things you can still do and enjoy will help you to stay positive
With the right help and support when you need it, many people can, and do, live well with dementia for several years.
Stay socially active
Keeping in touch with people and engaging in social activities, such as going to the theatre or cinema, or being part of a walking group or choir, is good for your confidence and mental wellbeing.
If you have someone who helps care for you, an active social life is good for them, too.
Many communities are now dementia-friendly. For example, cinemas put on dementia-friendly screenings of the latest films, and leisure centres run dementia-friendly swimming sessions as well as other activities.
It's a good idea to join a local dementia-friendly group, perhaps at a memory café (a "dementia-friendly" café) or community centre. You can share experiences and use tips from others who are living with dementia.
The Alzheimer's Society website has a webpage that lets you search for dementia support groups and memory cafés in your local area.
Telling people about your dementia
When you're ready, it's best to tell others about your diagnosis. It's also good to tell them what you may have trouble with, such as following a conversation or remembering what was said.
You may find some people treat you differently than they did before.
This may be because they don't understand what dementia is or want to help but don't know how.
Try to explain what your diagnosis means and the ways in which they can help and support you.
For example, if you're no longer able to drive, they could take you to a weekly activity.
You may also find that you lose touch with some people. This may be because you no longer do the activities together that you used to do, or you find it harder to stay in touch.
This can be difficult to accept. But you can meet new people through activity and support groups. Focus on the people who are there for you.
Look after your health
It's important to look after your physical and mental health when you have dementia:
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet and drink plenty of fluids.
- Exercise regularly. This could be a daily walk or gardening, or you could try tai chi or dancing.
- Ask your GP if you would benefit from flu vaccination and pneumonia vaccination.
- Get enough sleep. Try to avoid naps during the day and caffeine and alcohol at night.
- Depression is very common in dementia. Talk to your GP, as there are talking treatments that can help.
- Have regular dental, eyesight and hearing check-ups.
See your GP if you feel unwell, as things like chest or urine infections can make you feel very confused if not treated promptly.
Tips to help cope with dementia
Coping with memory loss and problems with thinking speed can be distressing. But there are things that can help.
Try these tips:
- have a regular routine
- put a weekly timetable on the kitchen wall or fridge, and try to schedule activities for when you feel better (for example, in the mornings)
- put your keys in an obvious place, such as a large bowl in the hall
- keep a list of helpful numbers (including who to contact in an emergency) by the phone
- put regular bills on direct debits so you don't forget to pay them
- use a pill organiser box (dosette box) to help you remember which medicines to take when (your pharmacist can help you get one)
- make sure your home is dementia-friendly and safe
Read more about living well with dementia in the Alzheimer's Society's The dementia guide: Living well after your diagnosis.
When you need extra help and support
In the early stages of dementia you may be able to live at home, continuing to enjoy doing the things you have always done and having an active social life.
As the illness progresses, it's likely that you'll need extra help with daily activities, such as housework, shopping and cooking.
The first step is to apply for a needs assessment from the adult social services of your local council. This will help identify where you might benefit from help.
It's advisable to do this soon after your diagnosis as a needs assessment can identify things you may not have thought of.