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Living With Early Dementia

downloadA diagnosis of early dementia can be overwhelming for everyone involved. Alzheimer’s is the most recognized cause of early onset dementia; however, there may be other causes. The disease is considered early onset dementia in people less than 65 years of age. Tragically, it can affect people as young as forty. Personality and memory changes may be subtle at first, but can be more drastic as time goes on You and your family will need to consult with doctors and experts to determine the best course of action. Support is available through many Alzheimer’s and dementia groups and organizations nationwide.

Many of those who are challenged with early dementia are in denial. Even if they realize the changes within themselves, they may be reluctant to admit it, out of fear and uncertainty. Family members and friends need to step in and help their loved one cope with this disabling condition. As the disease progresses, changes will need to be made with regard to various activities of daily living. These changes can be hard for those diagnosed and their families.

Driving
Everyone is reluctant to give up their independence. In the early stages, a person suffering from dementia may still be capable of driving. If you have been given a diagnosis of early dementia, you will have to give up some independence for your own safety. Family members can help monitor your condition and determine when it is no longer safe for you to drive. Driving requires concentration and quick response times. You may not realize that your capabilities are lessening, but know that your family has your safety in mind when they take the keys away. When the time comes that you lose your driving privileges, you will feel anger and sadness. It is a loss and you have every right to feel these emotions. Remember your safety is very important to your family. Try seeking out alternative means of transportation. If family members are not always available, set up an account with a taxi company.

Housing
A safe environment should be your primary concern. A person with early dementia may be living with a spouse and older children. The entire family should seek counseling to deal with the changes during this difficult time. Ask for help with household chores. There is nothing wrong with accepting a helping hand from a family member. Make sure that your home is safe. Even home appliances like stoves and irons can be dangerous for someone with memory problems. Home care is an option if you are living alone or family members are away during the day.

If living at home becomes overwhelming, consider a memory care assisted living facility. Compassionate and experienced staff in a home-like, cozy setting will care you for. A memory care assisted living can provide a level of care that is not possible in a private home and help you with activities of daily living that might be too much for your family members to handle.

Employment
If you are under 65 years of age, you may still be employed. Your employer and coworkers may have noticed a decline in work performance. Be frank and open about your condition.  Perhaps there are other duties that can be performed for the time being.

Finances
Having early dementia affects every aspect of a person’s life. You may have a family to support and are concerned about having enough, financially, to care for your family. There are many resources available to you. Talk with the Human Resources department at your place of employment because many companies have long-term disability, other health benefits, or they may suggest early retirement with a pension. While you are still able, organize and plan you finances for the future. Draw up a will and let family members know where all your important documents are kept.

Physical and Mental Health
Depression is common in people with dementia. Keeping physically and mentally active slows the progress of the disease and helps you to cope. Interact with your loved ones, for instance playing games or solving puzzles. Take walks or day trips to parks for picnics and swimming, with a companion. While you are still able, communicate your wishes to your family. The fear and grief you feel can be unbearable and you need all the support and love you can get. Trust that the people that love you will look out for your best interests.

There are support groups available for people and families affected by early dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association http://www.alz.org/index.asp and The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America http://www.alzfdn.org/ can assist you in locating an early onset Alzheimer’s support group in your area.

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