Living Well With Dementia

There are some practical things that you can do to help you live well with dementia. Below are some tips that can help to maintain your quality of life for as long as possible (source: Alzheimer Society’s Shared Experiences information booklet – click here to read the whole booklet).

Coping With Your Emotions

For some people, the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is a shock. For others, there may be an initial sense of relief at finally being able to put a name to their symptoms. Whatever your immediate response to the diagnosis, over time, you will find yourself experiencing a variety of emotions.

Talking to someone about how you feel is one way to get these feelings out into the open. Talk to a close friend, a family member or someone with whom you feel comfortable. It can be especially helpful to meet with other people who have the disease. Together, you can share your feelings and experiences and offer each other social and emotional support.

Each of us has our own way of dealing with our feelings. The important thing is to find a way or ways of coping with these emotions that makes you feel better.

Learning About the Disease

Learning what you can about Alzheimer’s disease and how it progresses may help you adjust to the changes that you are experiencing.

Some of what you learn may be overwhelming. Learn only as much as you feel you can. Encourage your family members and friends to also learn about dementia.

Your family doctor and the local Alzheimer Society are good sources of information.

Staying Active and Involved

A diagnosis of dementia does not mean you have to give up everything. You should continue to do the things you always did — you may even decide to take up new hobbies or interests.

Keeping stimulated, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, living one day at a time, and doing the things that you enjoy are just some of the ways to live well with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.

Many people are ready and willing to offer you support – family members, friends and your local Alzheimer Society.

Adjusting to Changing Abilities

Dementia affects thinking ability and memory. It also affects mood and emotions, behaviour and ability to perform activities of daily living. It affects each individual differently – the symptoms, the order in which they appear and duration of each stage vary from person to person.

In most cases, the disease progresses slowly; the duration of the disease is usually seven to 10 years, but may be longer in some people.

One way to cope with the changes is to focus on what you are still able to do, and to continue to participate in activities that are meaningful to you. There may come a time when you will have to accept help from family members and friends. If you let them know what is needed, they can help you maintain your independence.

Safety

The gradual loss of memory and the difficulties with decision-making and communication often raise concerns over safety. The following are a few suggestions to keep you safe, especially if you live alone.

  • Contact your local Alzheimer Society for resources available in your community.
  • Consider getting assistance in the home with things like housekeeping, meal preparation, transportation, etc.
  • Some banks have “bank at home” services that may be helpful. If yours does not, let the bank manager know you have Alzheimer’s disease and that you have difficulty keeping track of your banking. He or she can help you.
  • Arrange for direct deposit of cheques such as Old Age Pension or Canada Pension to your account.
  • Meals on Wheels can ensure a good meal is delivered to your home once a day. Fresh fruit and vegetable baskets and frozen meals are also often available.
  • Have a family member sort out your closet and dresser drawers to make it easier for you to choose what to wear.
  • Leave a set of house keys with a neighbour you trust.
  • Use a toaster oven or microwave, if you are familiar with using one, rather than the stove.
  • Leave written reminders to yourself like “turn off the stove” or “unplug the iron.” Make sure they are placed where you will see them often.
  • Have family or friends arrange for a daily call-in or visit. Some communities have a service that will do this.
  • Talk with someone about sorting and securing items that could be mistaken for something else (e.g. cleaning fluids could be mistaken for something to drink, or nail polish can be mistaken for eye drops).

Practical Tips for Daily Living

We asked people living with Alzheimer’s disease for some practical tips for daily living. Here are some of their suggestions:

  • “Do one thing at a time.”
  • “Write things down.”
  • “Follow routines.”
  • “Stay away from large crowds.”
  • “Avoid overstimulation.”
  • “If you forget something, don’t dwell on it.”
  • “If you are having problems with one activity, try something else.”
  • “Ask someone to help.”
  • “Use a dispenser for pills.”
  • “Set the timer when using the stove or oven”

Additional Resources

By Us For Us (BUFU) Guides – created by people with dementia and/or caregivers:

Enhancing Wellness
Memory Workout