When a loved one receives a diagnosis of dementia, it’s a tough thing to process. It’s a life-changing diagnosis, not just for the person with dementia but also for the people around them. One of your first thoughts is likely going to be about how you’re going to provide the care and support that someone with dementia needs. Dementia can progress at different speeds, but most people are going to require extra care to help them maintain a good quality of life. Most people with dementia want to live as independently as possible for as long as they can, so finding the right balance is a priority.
After Diagnosis: Your First Steps
Dealing with the shock of a dementia diagnosis isn’t something that you can do immediately. It might take some time to really absorb the information, but in the meantime, both you and your loved one should start taking some initial steps to plan for the future. Before you do anything else, it’s a good idea to educate yourself about dementia. Your doctor can provide you with some materials and point you towards useful resources. Charities such as Dementia Australia, which runs the National Dementia Helpline, can be helpful.
Of course, talking to your loved one’s doctor together is a smart thing to do. The doctor can help you consider your next steps and outline some possible treatments and care options.
You might also want to take advantage of other resources, including books, articles online and even online videos of people talking about dementia. As well as learning about dementia, it can be helpful to listen to other people’s stories of how it has had an impact on their lives. Talking about the diagnosis with friends and family can also be helpful. However, make sure you discuss with your loved one who you want to tell and when.
Finding Care for Someone with Dementia
Getting the right treatment and care after someone has been diagnosed with dementia is essential. There might not be a cure for dementia, but there are many things that can help to make it easier to deal with. Finding the right care and creating a care plan for both now and the future can help to give you more control.
For many people, home care is the most attractive option. Being able to stay in your own home and maintain a level of independence is important, although it’s not always the best option for everyone. However, many people can benefit from home care from when they first receive their diagnosis and throughout the progression of dementia. Home care can make the need for care easier to deal with and less upsetting. When your loved one gets to stay in their own home, or perhaps move in with a family member, it means less upheaval and they can avoid moving into a completely unfamiliar environment.
A Home Care Package is a package of care and services that help you to live independently in your home. With a Home Care Package, your care provider will help you to choose and manage the services that you receive. There are four levels available, starting with basic care needs at Level 1 and moving up to high-level needs at Level 4.
Of course, other care options are available too. Some people decide to care for a loved one on their own at home. However, it’s best to have some kind of support, whether it’s from a carer’s support group or through the benefit of respite care, which gives both of you a break. An aged care home or a similar arrangement is an option that some people consider, particularly for people who require 24-hour care or might benefit from being in a memory care facility. If you choose to be a home carer, you can look into the option of a day centre, which can help to provide respite care.
What Help Can You Receive?
There are some types of assistance that you might be able to receive from the Australian Government. Some older people are eligible for services that help them to do day-to-day things, and which can be partly or sometimes wholly funded by the Government.
Some of these services might include:
Home Care Funding
Funding is available for dementia care, including Home Care Packages. To be assessed for a Home Care Package, you should get a financial assessment from the Department of Human Services. A financial assessment will help you to work out your costs when you start talking to care providers. A good Home Care Package provider can be flexible with their fees and help you to work out something that fits your budget.
When you are approved for a Home Care Package, you will be shown your contribution and what the Government will pay as a subsidy. The maximum amount paid by the Government depends on the care level, and it also increases each year. As well as being available for older people with care needs, for younger people under 65 with dementia, they can be eligible for assistance through the NDIS.
My Aged Care is the Government body that helps with aged care funding. You can contact them to see if your loved one needs an assessment from an Aged Care Assessment Team. The assessment with determine if you are eligible for a Home Care Package or for other care need funding, such as residential care, respite care or transition care. If you are approved as eligible, you will receive an approval letter, which sets out which services you can receive and gain funding for. This will help you to begin choosing the services that will help you to care for your loved on in their home.
Of course, some people might choose to entirely self-fund in-home support for their loved one. This is an option too and can help you to access the care that you need even if you’re not eligible for a Home Care Package.
Choosing the Right Home Care Services
Once you know how you’re going to fund the care and support for your loved one, you can begin to consider which services you require. If you have been approved for a Home Care Package, you can work with a care provider to find and create a package that works. When you work with Dementia Caring, you will have a Case Manager, who will help you with creating a flexible package that responds to changing needs. Your care provider should be able to help you get the most from your package and the funding made available to you.
There are several things to consider when choosing the care services for you. The needs of your loved one and the budget that you have available can be balanced so that you ensure a high standard of care. Care experts will discuss the needs of your loved one to help you find the best services to help them and you.
When your loved one has dementia, considering special dementia therapies is an important part of making the right care choices. Specialised dementia care can help people with dementia to stay independent for longer with a range of care and support services. These can include home care, housekeeping and home maintenance, respite care and dementia care support. Careful planning can help you to prepare for now but also consider the future to ensure long-term care for your loved one. The earlier dementia therapies are started, the easier it can be to delay the progression of dementia and maintain independence for longer.
Dementia therapies can include music and memory therapy, reminiscence therapy, validation therapy and the use of storytelling books. Each of these therapies is designed to help improve memory, lift mood and stimulate the person experiencing them. Talk to your care provider about dementia therapy options and which ones might be suitable for your loved one. They can make recommendations based on your loved one’s needs and how far their dementia has progressed. Every type of therapy has different benefits and some could be more enjoyable for your loved one than other options.
Thinking About the Future
Planning for the future is important after a dementia diagnosis. While it might be difficult to think about what the future will look like, it’s a smart idea to start planning as soon as possible. It’s especially useful to make some of the more complicated decisions earlier, while your loved one still has the mental capacity to choose for themselves. When their dementia has progressed, they might be less able to make decisions for themselves and, in fact, might be legally unable to make some choices. By making some plans now, you can set out some wishes for the future. It’s a good way to start talking more about dementia and how it might impact your lives.
Now can be a good time to think about some legal matters. If your loved one is unable to make decisions when their dementia has progressed, someone else might have to make these decisions for them. It may comfort them to know that they can choose who makes these decisions now so that they can choose someone who they trust. This could be concerning matters such as finances and legal matters. An enduring power of attorney allows a person to be nominated to take care of these affairs, as well as medical and care arrangements. An advanced directive can also be written to set out wishes for future medical care.
It’s essential for both people diagnosed with dementia and those around them to get the support that they need. Without the right support, dealing with dementia can be very emotionally taxing. Fortunately, there are various ways to get the support that you need. You can look for support groups, which are available for both people living with dementia and their carers or family. This can be helpful if you want to discuss your experiences with people who are going through similar things and can share what it’s like.
Another option is to use a helpline or similar service to get support. You can access the National Dementia Helpline through Dementia Australia, which offers confidential counselling and support. Other support services might offer counselling through phone, email or in-person counselling sessions. You might consider a counsellor or therapist, which you could pay for privately, if you want to ensure you have more choice about the support that you receive. You will discover charities, as well as government programs, that can offer you guidance and support when you need it.
The Living With Dementia series is one option for support, which is available in each state and territory. The program is designed for people in the early stages of dementia and their loved ones, offering information and support, as well as the chance to meet with others in the same situation. The program will help you to explore ways of managing dementia and care needs, and also focuses on maintaining and enhancing skills. You can contact the National Dementia Helpline or take a look at the Dementia Australia website if you want to find out more about the Living with Dementia series can help you and how to access it. When a loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, you can feel a lot of pressure to get thing sorted out quickly. Everything can be slower than you might like, but it’s best to take your time and make sure that you can make the best choices. Work with your loved one to help them get the best care and support possible. Talking about the diagnosis and your next steps is essential, so make an effort to have some important conversations in the coming weeks and months. Remember that there is support available for you to help with care and more.