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Dealing with dementia

an old man and his daughter
Posted June 8, 2019

If you suspect you’re suffering from more than just ‘forgetfulness’, you can take steps that will help you continue having a positive and healthy life for years to come.

‘If I have been out shopping, and I come in and I might want to go to the bathroom. I’m going around opening the doors saying that’s not the place, and this is out in the hall, and I can’t remember, and I’m saying: “Gosh, what did I come in here for?”’, recalls Mrs Curren, 74, regarding her experience of early dementia.

Dementia progresses over a period of around 10 years. Warning signs include recent memory loss that affects daily life, difficulty performing regular tasks, problems with language, disorientation, problems with judgement or abstract thinking, misplacing things and changes in behaviour or personality, according to Alzheimer’s NZ (Alzheimer’s disease is the most common reason for dementia).

The onset of dementia can be frightening. The sufferer will often try to cover up their confusion, and family members may feel they are in denial—but this only causes more anxiety for the sufferer and their whānau. Seeing a GP about any concerns can actually be a positive opportunity to talk through fears and ease anxieties. You may discover your symptoms are not a sign of dementia at all.

Even if it is dementia, getting help sooner can slow down the progress of the disease. And most people find that actually knowing is better than wondering: ‘It just gives a person the peace of mind that, yeah, we definitely know what it is and life goes on,’ says a family member of a person suffering dementia, in the guide ‘Coping with the Early Stages of Dementia’.

If you’ve had a diagnosis of dementia, Alzheimer’s NZ says it’s important not to deny your feelings. A range of emotions is normal, and it’s okay to cry or even laugh about it. Share
your feelings with your family, and writing about it can help you process.

‘Be patient and kind to yourself. If you are finding it hard to remember something, don’t stress about it—focus on something else,’ says Alzheimer’s NZ. ‘Try something new—finding a new activity you enjoy will make you feel better and it will stimulate your brain. Go out and enjoy life.’

Next steps

A practical guide to dealing with a dementia diagnosis.

•    Ask your doctor about anti-dementia drugs and other types of interventions that might improve your quality of life.
•    Try to organise your financial affairs. Consider setting up a direct debit account, this may make bill payments a lot easier.
•    Talk to a solicitor about an ‘Enduring Power of Attorney’. Nominating someone to make legal and financial decisions on your behalf, can make life a lot easier if your memory becomes more impaired.
•    Put systems in place to help you with memory loss—this can range from a noticeboard and Post-It notes to assistive technologies.
•    Find out about the wealth of care services you can access from your home, including things like cleaning and Meals On Wheels— has a lot of tips.

Sources: and