Dementia can bubble under the surface and remain somewhat hidden — but only for so long. Caregivers and patients alike who are attuned early-on to the possibility of dementia have a head start on obtaining treatment, making essential medical decisions, and improving their quality of life.
Flexing Cognitive and Physical Muscles to Improve Patient Memory and Mood
We focus on three things to care for people with dementia — their physical well-being, cognitive function and social engagement, said Jennifer Robinson, program manager of Fairfax County Health Department’s Adult Day Care Centers. Jennifer has spent most of her decades-long career caring for older adults with dementia and other cognitive disorders.
The earlier the diagnosis, the sooner you can begin enjoying the benefits of a memory care program.
Better moods, increased attention span and alertness, and improved awareness are some of the benefits family caregivers report experiencing when their loved one is enrolled in a memory care program. Greater flexibility and range of motion, as well as an increased sense of personal control and life satisfaction are some of the physical and social boosts reported in the same study.1
But, denial of its potential existence — either by the person or their caregiver — limits the benefits of an early diagnosis.
Participation in Decisions Earlier Eases Stress on the Patient and Family
Early diagnosis and treatment enable a person with dementia to play a bigger role in decision making up-front.
A diagnosis of dementia doesn’t mean a person loses their desire or ability to be actively making decisions about their health care. That’s why getting treatment early on is essential — it gives the person greater control over their life for a longer period of time, said Jennifer.
Working with a loved one to establish parameters around medical decisions, finances, and housing, as well as basic logistics such as transportation and diet, give the family a roadmap to follow when the person is no longer able to participate cognitively.
Early Intervention Helps the Caregiver
Dementia impacts the caregiver as much as it does the patient. Suddenly, a caregiver is thrust into a new role — no longer just husband, wife, daughter or son — but power of attorney, nurse, and care plan manager. When a person with dementia gets involved in a memory care program early on in their diagnosis, their caregiver gets access to the resources they need to manage the process — and the time they need to focus on it properly.
Fairfax County offers an abundance of services for family caregivers. From support groups and webinars to special events and consortiums, caregivers have access to a large toolkit to help them navigate health care services and find support, said Jennifer.
1Fairfax County Adult Day Health Care Centers data, 2016.