If you or a loved one have just been diagnosed with dementia, you may be feeling shocked, scared, confused, or overwhelmed. Here are some first steps to take on this unexpected journey.
Seek God. As in every crisis of life, before you do anything else, come to God in prayer. Share your heart with Him. Don’t hold back. He knows how you are feeling. If you don’t know what to pray, just let the Holy Spirit intercede through you:
So too the [Holy] Spirit comes to our aid and bears us up in our weakness; for we do not know what prayer to offer nor how to offer it worthily as we ought, but the Spirit Himself goes to meet our supplication and pleads in our behalf with unspeakable yearnings and groanings too deep for utterance. And He Who searches the hearts of men knows what is in the mind of the [Holy] Spirit [what His intent is], because the Spirit intercedes and pleads [before God] in behalf of the saints according to and in harmony with God’s will. (Romans 8:26-27. TAB)
Ask God for wisdom for each step of the way as you begin this journey:
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5-6, NKJV)
Immerse yourself in the Word of God–especially the comfort of the Psalms. Listen to soothing praise hymns and songs, as Christian music has calming and healing properties (see 1 Samuel 16:23).
Educate yourself. Learn about the various treatment options and the progression of this disease. As you do this however, remember that God is greater than this disease and any so-called normal stages of progression. Believe for the best, and do not fret over the future:
Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. (Matthew 6:34, MSG)
To learn more about dementia, start by using the “Practical Resources” and “Christian Resources” available on this website. Your physician is another source of reliable assistance.
Seek spiritual support. Talk with your pastor, mentor, or Christian counselor. They will be able to pray with you and share spiritual encouragement. Continue to socialize with your Christian friends, as social isolation can easily become a problem with this disease.
Form a support system. Forming a support system early on can help you during the progression of this disease. Talk with your family, close friends, and your church family. Let them know how they can assist you presently and in the future.
Form a medical support team. This may include your primary physician, a neurologist, a pharmacist, counselor, and social worker.
Examine your health care options. Meet with a representative from your health insurance carrier to learn what services are covered and what are not–for example, is in-home care or nursing home care provided? If you have a long-term care insurance policy, review it. In addition, learn what resources are available in your community in terms of day care, homecare, and long-term care. You may not need these now or even in the future, but knowing your options can help you remain independent as long as possible and give you confidence to face the future.
Examine your medical options. Update your HIPPA forms (privacy of medical information). Designate someone to act as your health advocate should you become unable to speak for yourself. This is done by granting a medical power of attorney. Inquire regarding information on other forms such as end of life medical directives, POLST forms, etc.
Put your legal and financial affairs in order. You may want to use a financial advisor or attorney to do this. Put important information in one place so it can be easily accessed. See details on this topic on this website under “Practical Resources” and “Legal And Financial Planning”.
Take good care of yourself. If you experience changes in mood–like depression–contact your physician. This is not uncommon in dementia. Also ask your physician regarding healthy lifestyle choice such as exercise, diet, etc. Stay faithful in your daily time with God, as spiritual renewal is the most important thing you can do to care for yourself–body, soul, and spirit.