Jane did not want to see the results, but there she was waiting in her doctor’s office for her results. A week ago, Jane had taken a battery of neuropsychological testing which would help the doctor give her a diagnosis. She did not remember how she had performed on the test, but she knew the test did not feel good. When the doctor gave her a diagnosis of dementia, she was devastated. She felt as if her wonderful life had slipped from her in a moment. Jane did not know how could she manage her symptoms better. Jane left the doctor’s office sobbing.
Jane’s situation is not uncommon. Due to the stigma associated with dementia or shortage of special neuropsychiatric diagnostic clinics, individuals often delay their visit to a doctor or under-report the symptoms. Additionally, many persons with dementia feel overwhelmed as they undergo testing and receive a diagnosis of dementia. Thus an opportunity for ‘timely diagnosis’ is missed.
A ‘timely diagnosis’, which is defined as soon as the individual seeks help regarding their concern about cognition and behavior, has some potential benefits. It helps the person with dementia and their family access support services and treatments. In a dementia-friendly community, a clinician and her staff focus on post-diagnostic support to the individual. The clinic staff offers personalized information to the person with dementia so that the symptoms can be managed in a better manner.
In dementia-friendly communities, health care and social care go hand in hand. The clinical staff helps persons with dementia to get medication, access healthcare facilities, and emergency healthcare services. A social worker plays a key role in providing necessary support as a person with dementia reconfigures their life after the diagnosis. A social worker acts as an advocate for persons with dementia while interacting with other businesses e.g., to secure assisted living facilities or make appropriate changes to current homes, seek support from community-based organizations.
Along with persons with dementia, their caregivers also need to adapt to the life after diagnosis. A self-support group led by a social worker or a nurse practitioner brings caregivers in the community together. During meetings, caregivers discuss topics such as available tools for caregiving, care for the caregiver, resources available, and dementia-friendly businesses in the community. Some caregivers may need one-on-one sessions with a peer caregiver or a group leader (e.g., multiple caregiving responsibilities such as a parent with dementia and a child with special needs). In a dementia-friendly community, the support is always available.
Furthermore, persons with dementia are provided social support through specialized community services such as befriender. Befrienders are trained volunteers that help persons with dementia to go to various places. They not only assist in the commute but also lend a friendly hand to do activities such as shopping, visiting doctor’s office or library. Apart from befrienders, home aides, and elderly daycares also provide social care to persons with dementia.
In a dementia-friendly community, Jane will find the necessary support in an organic and seamless way. But some communities are still struggling to become truly dementia friendly. At AlzCare Labs, we are building a platform for networking so that communities can become dementia-friendly in a quick and efficient manner. If your community also wants to become dementia-friendly, then connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.