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Thursday, July 18th 3:30pm-4:30pm via Zoom. Click HERE to Register!
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spouse dementia

My Spouse Has Dementia, What Next?

Life can take us on unexpected journeys. When we face the challenges of dementia alongside our spouse, it can feel like uncharted territory.

Dementia is a condition that requires boundless compassion, unwavering patience, and a deep commitment to love.

As you embark on this emotional journey, remember you are not alone. Countless others have walked this path, and together, we can navigate the road ahead with empathy and understanding.

We offer a specialized Spousal Caregiver Support Group on the 2nd Monday of each month from 4pm-5pm, in person, at The Kensington Reston. Led by Jennifer Denk, MSW, LMSW, CDP of Insight Memory Care Center, this group is complimentary and open to all families and local caregivers.

If you suspect your loved one may have dementia, a prompt diagnosis and plan are crucial to their well-being.

The Kensington Reston offers support and compassion to our residents and their caregivers and can help your spouse live a high-quality life.

First signs of dementia you may notice in your spouse

Dementia may initially manifest in subtle ways that can be easily overlooked or attributed to other factors.

Signs you may notice first:

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty finding words
  • Misplacing items
  • Trouble with familiar tasks
  • Changes in mood or personality
  • Getting lost or disoriented
  • Reduced judgment
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Changes in hygiene and self-care
  • Repetitive behaviors

If you notice any of these signs consistently impacting your spouse’s daily life, seek a comprehensive medical evaluation from a healthcare professional experienced in diagnosing dementia.

Early detection and diagnosis are crucial to manage dementia effectively.

How dementia is diagnosed

Your spouse will need to see a healthcare professional to be correctly diagnosed.

Before their appointment, take note of the specific symptoms and changes in behavior or cognition you’ve noticed. This information will be valuable during the medical evaluation.

Gather relevant medical history, including any pre-existing medical conditions, medications, and family medical history (if there is a history of dementia).

Accompany your spouse to the medical appointment to provide support and to share your observations about their symptoms. Your insights can help the healthcare professional better understand the situation.

Your loved one’s medical evaluation may include:

  • A detailed medical history review
  • A physical examination to assess overall health and rule out other medical conditions
  • Cognitive and memory tests to assess cognitive function
  • Blood tests and brain imaging (e.g., MRI or CT scan) to rule out other possible causes of cognitive impairment

If the healthcare professional suspects dementia or requires further assessment, they may refer your spouse to a neurologist or geriatric specialist.

A dementia diagnosis can be emotionally challenging for you and your spouse. Seek support from family, friends, or support groups to help cope with the impact of the diagnosis.

The stages of dementia and how to cope

While some medical professionals use a more detailed seven-stage scale, there are generally three main stages commonly associated with the progression of the disease.

Below is an overview of each stage and some coping strategies for dealing with the changes in behavior and personality.

Early-stage (mild dementia):

  • Memory loss: In the early stage, memory lapses may be noticeable but often attributed to normal aging. Your spouse may struggle to remember recent events or the names of familiar people.
  • Communication: They may experience difficulty finding the right words or expressing their thoughts clearly.
  • Coping: Encourage your spouse to remain engaged in activities they enjoy. Create a supportive environment that allows them to maintain independence as much as possible. Consider cognitive stimulation exercises or memory aids.

Middle-stage (moderate dementia):

  • Increased memory impairment: Memory loss becomes more evident, and your spouse may forget significant life events and struggle with everyday tasks.
  • Personality changes: Behavioral changes may occur, such as agitation, anxiety, or aggression. Their personality might shift, and they may display increased confusion and frustration.
  • Coping: Establish a routine to provide predictability and comfort. Focus on effective communication techniques, using simple sentences and non-verbal cues. Engage in calming activities like listening to soothing music or walking together.

Late-stage (severe dementia):

  • Severe memory loss: In this stage, your spouse may have difficulty recognizing family members and may be unaware of their surroundings.
  • Decline in motor skills: Mobility and coordination are significantly impaired, and they may need assistance with all daily activities.
  • Coping: Create a calm and safe environment to reduce potential triggers for distress. Offer gentle physical touch, like holding hands, to provide comfort and reassurance. Be attentive to their needs and maintain their dignity and respect.

Embracing the reality that your spouse has dementia

The first step in this journey is acknowledging and embracing the reality of your spouse’s dementia diagnosis.

It’s okay to feel a mix of emotions—fear, sadness, and even a sense of loss.

Allow yourself the space to grieve for the memories while staying open to creating new ones as you embark on this journey together.

In the whirlwind of doctor’s appointments and care planning, it’s easy to get lost in the future. However, cherishing the present moments becomes even more critical when faced with dementia.

Find joy in the simple pleasures you share, savoring the laughter, touch, and companionship that form the heart of your relationship.

Embrace non-verbal communication, using touch, eye contact, and reassuring gestures to convey your love and support.

Remember that taking care of yourself is crucial to providing the best care for your loved one. Allow yourself respite, and prioritize self-care to maintain your well-being.

Care options and when to transition to a community setting

When caring for a spouse with dementia becomes increasingly challenging, exploring care options and transitioning to a community setting might be necessary.

Care options

Hiring professional caregivers to provide in-home care can be a good option if your spouse’s care needs can still be met at home.

Home health services can provide skilled nursing care, physical therapy, and other medical services in the comfort of your home.

Assisted living and memory care communities offer a more structured living environment. Residents have their own apartments or rooms while receiving assistance with daily tasks, meals, and social activities.

These communities have staff trained to provide specialized care and support for people with memory impairments.

Factors to consider for transitioning to a community setting

  • Safety
  • Care needs
  • Social interactions
  • Caregiver well-being
  • Finances
  • Your spouse’s wishes
  • Professional advice

At The Kensington Reston—you and your spouse are family

Choosing the right memory care community is a significant decision. You want to ensure that your spouse receives the best possible care and support in a safe and compassionate environment.

That’s why The Kensington Reston has made it Our Promise to love and care for your family as we do our own.

Our compassionate team of professionals ensures your loved one is supported, understood, and living the highest quality of life.

With individualized care plans and specialized programs, your loved one will receive high-acuity care along with a host of other amenities.

We offer:

  • Around-the-clock care
  • On-site nurses
  • Rehabilitation services
  • Life-enrichment activities
  • Exquisite dining services
  • Three tiered memory care neighborhoods:
    • The Kensington Club: our early-stage memory care program for new and current assisted living residents experiencing mild changes in cognition. It features a strong relationship-based focus, peer support, sensory movement and family participation.
    • Connections: for early to middle stage Alzheimer’s and dementia care designed specifically for residents to retain a significant degree of independence and remain engaged in activities that give meaning and purpose to their lives.
    • Haven: for middle to late-stage Alzheimer’s and dementia. Residents in this neighborhood receive a higher level of assistance and care to maximize comfort, minimize agitation, and soothe compassionately.
  • Specialized care for all types of Alzheimer’s and dementia

Contact us for more information about our community. We’re here for you and ready to answer your questions.

Check out our blog to also learn more about our services, caregiver resources, and upcoming events.

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