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How can a diagnosis help?

What steps can a Carer take after an initial diagnosis?

• It is important that the person you are caring for is helped to retain their confidence and self-esteem

• Encourage the person recently diagnosed, if they are able to, to tell their friends and family, so that they can understand some of the changes likely to occur

• It may be helpful for you both to discuss the future,their likes and dislikes so that you and others who provide care are aware of their wishes. (Compiling a Life Story Book, available through Carers of Barking & Dagenham may help.)

 • Keep a record of events, help received, visits from services, changes of medication, visits to doctor,appointments and any change of circumstances

• Remember to ask for results of all tests so that youare kept up to date

• This could be the time to ensure that your finances are in order and that the person recently diagnosed has a will reflecting their wishes. They may wish to consult a solicitor regarding this as well as discussing making a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). This replaced the Enduring Power of Attorney as part of the Mental Capacity Act 2007 which allows a person to appoint someone to make decisions about their financial affairs and their health care and welfare once they are no longer able to. (Alzheimer’s Society information sheets and Age UK’s fact sheets are useful reading.

• Begin to gather information about services to support you, the main carer

Medication can be important in the treatment of dementia. Medicines are not a cure, but can slow down the deterioration for some people. These drugs are specifically recommended for Alzheimer’s Disease. The family doctor or consultant should closely monitor any medication as some can make a situation worse because of adverse reactions. Some drugs may also be prescribed at specialist clinics. It is important for the carer to note any changes in the person they are caring for, and inform the person who has prescribed the drugs, particularly if there has been a change in medication. It is easy to think it is just a symptom of dementia. If in doubt ask. Every one reacts differently and has varying levels of tolerance to all formsof medication.

There are some therapies that have been shown to have a positive impact on memory and level of functioning. These include cognitive therapy, reminiscence therapy, physical activity and exercise

Why visit the family GP?

To reach a diagnosis doctors and other health professionals spend a large amount of time talking to the patient, main carer, relative or close friend to build up a picture of the situation. 80 – 90% of diagnoses of

dementia are accurate but often cannot be confirmed until after death. It is important to seek diagnosis as some causes can be treated and new drugs are continually being researched.

Whilst a diagnosis is of significant value it can also be a great shock even if it was suspected. This can be a very upsetting and bewildering time. You, the carer, and the person recently diagnosed will need a substantial amount of support to meet your varying emotions and concerns throughout the stages of the illness.