Yesterday your loved one had issues, you knew that, but they did not officially have Alzheimer’s disease or some other type of dementia. Today, you received a diagnosis from the doctor indicating that they do, in fact, have Alzheimer’s disease or some other type of dementia. The dementia diagnosis has been made. Now what is the effect of the diagnosis?
The reality is your loved one is the same person today that he or she was yesterday. Barring a traumatic event like a stroke or some other issue that resulted in immediate cognitive decline, things have not changed much overnight. What she was able to do yesterday she can still do today and probably tomorrow and the foreseeable future. The real problem is that things are not going to improve. It is now official, you are going to be their caregiver.
This is the time to begin work on making sure you are in a position to manage your loved one’s affairs. Just because she has been diagnosed with dementia does not mean she cannot sign documents or make decisions. The diagnosis itself is not a bright line moment in time when things change and she loses the right to manage her affairs or, if she was not able to do that prior to the diagnosis, continue to participate in the level she was doing so prior to being diagnosed with dementia.
It is a common mistake that people think that immediately upon learning of a dementia diagnosis their loved one is no longer able to manage her affairs. I have many people say that as soon as they hear someone was diagnosed with dementia then from that moment forward they should viewed differently. That may be right – the person has been diagnosed with dementia so you need to question whether they have capacity but you shouldn’t assume she is incapacitated. Again, barring some kind of traumatic event or immediate cognitive decline, one day did not make a change in her status and neither did being labeled.
The bottom line is this, a dementia diagnosis is a great opportunity to turn your attention to the situation at hand and do whatever planning is necessary while your loved one has the most ability to assist with that planning. She may not have capacity to sign legal documents, she may have lost that long before the diagnosis was made, but on the other hand she may. The diagnosis should be a starting point to planning a new course, one where you need to insure you are in a position to provide your loved one suffering from dementia with the highest possible quality of life.