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It is estimated that within a few years – by 2030 – almost 11,000 individuals in Malta will be living with dementia

Dreamy middle aged senior loving retired family couple are hugging,Enjoying peaceful moment relaxing together on cozy sofa in living room.

With an ageing population, and with age being the biggest risk factor for dementia, it is good for us to understand not only the frightening and unfamiliar reality of a person living with dementia, but also that of their close family and caregivers.  Family members invariably deal with not only the heartbreakingly gradual but very real loss of their loved ones, but frequently also with complex feelings of guilt and self-doubt – second-guessing their own decisions and complicated by a constant worry for their loved ones’ safety and welfare.

A dementia diagnosis affects and sometimes even disrupts families with untold suffering and anguish.  When a person is given a diagnosis, attention often centres around that person, with other family members being left feeling neglected and unseen – sometimes also complicated by feelings of guilt for not feeling like the ‘strong rock’ that they expect themselves to be in such circumstances. 

 Recognise your feelings and banish guilt

As with any other traumatic news, a life-changing diagnosis such as this will bring a period of bereavement to the family, as they slowly start to come to terms with the weight of what it means to them emotionally but also practically.  The bereavement process is an inevitable process we all go through, and which, unfortunately cannot be hurried up.  However feelings of guilt – about the time you may have disappointed or hurt your family member, or even about going to work and leaving your loved one with a professional care giver – are unnecessary, unhelpful and only cause added suffering and pain.

Plan for the future together

Many times when a person first receives a diagnosis, they can still manage to continue with their lives.  They may still be able to remain fairly independent and make certain decisions.  Use this time to plan for the future together.  Get to know their wishes and how these are changing with the onset of time and dementia itself.  Get to know what options for care are available, and give them the serenity of understanding that today, technology and domiciliary care combined can help many persons with dementia remain in their own home safely and securely for a good number of years.  Learn their preferences, and involve the person with dementia in choosing the way they wish their future to be down the line.  Having a plan for the different stages of dementia can help you as a family member avoid having to make difficult decisions in times of heightened emotions and stress.  It means that when the time for the next step of the plan to be implemented, you know that this is the best decision possible.  You will avoid, as much as possible, second-guessing yourself and making hasty and forced decisions because your hands are tied.

Ask for help

Recognising the need for help is not a weakness, but the hallmark of a strong survivor who is capable of navigating the world with all its twists and turns.  Practical assistance with caring for your loved one – either regularly or for respite periods that will allow you to rest and recharge – is available and provides one of the best options of shared care.  This is especially true when care is provided within the person’s own familiar surroundings, and where interventions are not limited to basic care, but also encourage engagement, cognitive stimulation and assistance of a practical nature.  Psychological care for dealing with the situation is also available to persons with dementia and their families, providing a safe space for expressing fears, frustrations and uncertainties together with practical support on navigating this cycle; emerging stronger and more resilient.

Assistive devices and home modifications

While relocating to a nursing home is sometimes necessary, particularly in later stages where specialised care is required, technology today provides a myriad of tools and devices that help the person with dementia to continue living at home safely and securely.  ‘House hacks’ such as reducing clutter, improving lighting and securing doors, medications and other chemicals, are just a few ideas professionals can help you with.  In addition to this, introducing self-care routines for your loved ones which include physical, emotional and cognitive well-being, as well as the use of advanced technology such as trackers can all help your loved one gain confidence and you peace of mind.

IDEA Care professionals offer you and your family all the support you may require.  From psychological support for you and your family, to help with decision making and one-on-one tailored care for your loved one, we are there every step of the way – with professional advice, therapeutic interventions, practical assistance and a friendly voice you can always reach out to when things seem impossibly hard to handle.  Our compassionate professionals will have your back – whether you need help figuring out what decision to take, or whether you just need a friendly voice to talk to for a while.

For any information contact IDEA Care on 2145 6310.

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