Your first ally is the primary health provider. This might have started years ago, with an eye on family medical history and an indication of how likely dementia might be. Once it is suspected, don’t delay a visit to the doctor. The earlier dementia is caught, the more treatment options there are, whether that is medication, “brain training” to keep as much ability as possible for as long as possible, or even enrollment in clinical trials for new treatments.
Be sure to take and keep notes from each visit. There is more than one type of dementia. The more information you have, the better care you can provide or arrange. The family doctor will offer suggestions, but is not making the ultimate decisions—that’s up to you.
Options for care
Some patients with dementia can stay in their homes, as long as they can do so safely. Whether the care comes from family members or an in-home service, it likely will require more than just assistance with daily living activities and light medical care. Dementia patients also need someone with the patience to listen to the same questions repeatedly, and the understanding to cope when a misplaced object becomes the subject of a paranoid rant. They also need extra security measures, so they do not leave the home unnoticed and perhaps be unable to find their way back.
If this is too much, a facility devoted to dementia care may be the best option. This provides the round-the-clock attention that a family may find difficult to provide. In addition, these facilities offer features such as color-coded paths and interactive sessions in a homelike but secure setting, to provide mental stimulation in a safe environment.