What to Consider After a Dementia Diagnosis

Receiving a dementia diagnosis is a life-changing experience and often comes with feelings of shock, fear and anxiety.

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Access to information, support and care options is essential for both the person with dementia and family involved. There are many things to consider including choosing medication, home care, care facilities, support groups and legal matters. By no means a comprehensive list, our seven suggestions offer you a place to start for the next steps to take after a dementia diagnosis.

1. Clarify the diagnosis

If the diagnosis is unclear and you have unanswered questions, speak to your family physician or a nurse practitioner about the type of dementia and the projected course of illness. This will help give you and your family a sense of what steps to take next.

To see a geriatrician or a geriatric specialist, request a referral from your family doctor through Alberta Health Services’ (AHS) Seniors Health One Line referral service. albertahealthservices.ca

2. Gather information

Ask for a referral from your doctor or health-care provider to the First Link™ referral program, a support program that connects newly diagnosed patients and their families with programs, services and community resources for dementia education, workshops and more. Or call the Alzheimer Society of Calgary directly at 403-290-0110.

Dial 8-1-1 and connect with Health Link’s Dementia Advice, where a specialized dementia nurse can answer questions, offer advice and help connect you with other services available in your community. Several local private companies, including Golden Health and Proactive Seniors, also offer navigation services. alzheimercalgary.ca; gldnhealth.com; proactiveseniors.ca

3. Discuss medication and non-pharmacological options

In mild–to-moderate dementia, a cholinesterase inhibitor may be prescribed to help manage or reduce symptoms. Some users may experience side effects and the medication may only work for a short period of time. You can also discuss non-pharmacological options with your family physician or a nurse practitioner. Non-pharmacological options can include exercise and social activities.

4. Consider legal and financial issues

Consider creating joint access to banking and utility accounts so a spouse or family member can continue to pay bills as the illness progresses. Ensure that documents such as power of attorney, personal directive and goals of care are in place. Contact the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee for additional support. humanservices.alberta.ca

5. Support in your home

Health-care aides can come to your home and provide support with daily living. AHS Transition Services can assess the level of care needed and can be requested through a referral from your health-care provider. The Dementia Care Team within AHS Home Care has additional knowledge of how to support caregivers and those living with dementia. Support in your home is also available through private home-care providers, including Qualicare, Comfort Keepers and Home Instead Senior Care. homecarecalgary.com; comfortkeepers.ca; homeinstead.ca

6. Housing

Consider if the plan is to move into assisted living or remain at home as long as possible. Questions to consider include when is it time to move into a care facility, what are the costs and understanding waitlists? The Alzheimer Society’s Considering Care workshop will help address questions related to care. Transition Services can help select suitable residential care facilities to tour to learn what they’re like and what amenities they provide. Pick up a copy of the Housing Directory for Seniors from the Kerby Centre. kerbycentre.com

7. Connect with a community

Adult day programs offer social interaction and recreational activities and also provide respite for family caregivers. Programs may include art, theatre and exercise as well as separate programs for Young Onset Dementia. Contact AHS Home Care or the Alzheimer Society of Calgary for information on adult day programs for people with dementia. 

Caregivers can find support through the AHS Family Caregiver Centre, its Memory P.L.U.S. program is a community-based program that supports people with mild dementia and their caregivers. The Dementia Network Calgary also offers regular community gatherings for caregivers. dementianetworkcalgary.ca  ] 


3 Ways to Make Your Home Dementia-Friendly

  1. Address any safety concerns within your home including tripping hazards and accessibility. 
  2. Put up labels around the house including cupboards and drawers to help remember where things are.
  3. Make sure your space is well lit. Swap out older bulbs for brighter lights, and clean windows regularly to allow for natural light.

Build your memories with a life story

Create a scrapbook with photos of family members and mementoes of important life events to help remember. This is a great conversation piece for visiting friends and family and also provides insight for health-care workers about your interests and personal history so that care is more personalized.

Learn more at bespokechronicles.com.