Looking after myself

If you have been diagnosed with dementia, this Help Sheet may be
useful. It suggests ways to look after yourself and some people who can assist you to do this.

Being diagnosed with dementia will probably have come as a shock to you, as well as your family and friends. However, there is much that you can do to ensure that you remain as independent as possible and continue to enjoy life for a long time to come.

Your health

It is always important to maintain good health.

Some suggestions:-

• Exercise regularly as far as your physical capabilities allow. This might include walking or gardening
• Try to eat a balanced diet
• Rest when you are tired
• Try to incorporate regular relaxation into your day
• For some people alcohol can make memory problems worse, so enjoy a drink but limit your intake
• Ensure you are taking medication as prescribed - a daily pillbox can help organise your medication. The chemist can sort tablets into the box on a regular basis
• Have a regular general health check up
• Stay active. Try to continue with activities you enjoy even if you need to modify them to take part

Your feelings

Experiencing the changes caused by dementia may bring about a range of different emotions. Having such feelings is very common and it may help to share them. Talk to someone you are comfortable with and trust. You might also like to join a support group and meet others who have dementia to share experiences and ideas for dealing with the condition.

Managing with memory loss

While you may clearly remember events from long ago, recent events may be quickly forgotten. You may have difficulty keeping track of time, people and places. Keep in mind there will be days when your memory is better than others. Though this might be unsettling, this type of fluctuation is normal.

Some suggestions

Keep a diary or notebook of important things to remember and try to have it with you all the time. It may contain:-

• Appointments
• A list of things to do
• Important phone numbers, including your own and ones that may be needed in an emergency
• Names you need to remember, including those of children and grandchildren
• Your address and a map showing where your home is
• A record of your daily activities to look back on
• Any thoughts or ideas you want to hold on to
• Try to establish a regular daily or weekly routine that can help reduce
reliance on memory
• Put up a whiteboard or pin board in a prominent place such as the kitchen and use it to write important things to remember for the day or week
• Telephone numbers written in large print and put up by the telephone can be helpful. Include emergency numbers, as well as a description of where you live
• Label cupboards and drawers with words or pictures that describe the contents, for example dishes, knives and forks
• Keep a special place for important items such as glasses, wallet and medications
• Keep a collection of photos of people you see regularly. Label them with their names and what they do
• Marking off days on the calendar is a good way of keeping track of the time
• Ask family and friends to ring just before coming to visit as an extra reminder

Getting through the day

You may find it harder to do the things you once did easily. For example, preparing meals or managing your money and balancing your cheque book may become more difficult, or take more time than it used to.

Some suggestions:-

• Give yourself more time; don't let others hurry you
• If something is too difficult, try taking a break for a while
• Try breaking a task down into smaller steps and take one step at a time
• Arrange for others to help you with difficult tasks, or perhaps with parts of tasks

Talking to others

It is important to keep up your social contacts. Finding the right words to express your thoughts and understanding what people are saying can be difficult at times.

Some suggestions:-

• Take your time
• Tell people you have a problem with thinking, communicating and remembering
• If you did not understand what someone says, ask them to repeat it
• It is OK to ask over and over again
• If too many people or too much noise bothers you, find a quiet place
• If you lose a thought, let it go - it is okay if you forget it - it may come back later

Finding your way

There may be days when things that are usually familiar to you become unfamiliar.

Some suggestions:-

• If you enjoy taking a walk, try to take the same route each time
• Don't be afraid to ask for help
• Explain to people that you have a memory problem and need some assistance
• Try to carry identification at all times, including your name, address, phone number and emergency contact. This can be carried in a bag or pocket, or engraved on a bracelet. Keep this information up to date. Jersey Alzheimer's Association has a handy Helpcard that you can keep in your pocket, bag or wallet. Available from the Memory Clinic or phone the JAA office on 01534 723519.
• Consider getting a bracelet or necklace that is linked to a 24-hour emergency assistance service with all your details registered.

Did you know?

If we could delay the onset of Alzheimer's by 5 years we could halve the number of people who die with the disease.