This is the story about how Jean and John learned to cope after his dementia diagnosis…
We’d run our own business for 35 years and just started planning our retirement. We’d always dreamed of an overseas holiday, but we also wanted to spend more time with the grandkids.
John hadn’t been himself for about a year. Initially, our GP thought it was depression. John wasn’t coping at work, and everything seemed harder to do. Eventually, he had a big argument with one of our employees and they took out assault charges against him.
We knew something was wrong, so we went back to our GP, and then to the specialist. John went through lots of tests and investigations. Eventually they diagnosed younger onset dementia. We got home that day, after the diagnosis, and John got changed into his pyjamas and sat on the sofa, waiting to die. I remember feeling like our lives had ended.
A few days later I called our GP and he suggested calling the Dementia Australia Helpline. The advisor I spoke with was great. She’d been through a similar experience with her own husband. She sent me printed information and said to ask our GP for a mental health plan for John. She also gave me the details of couple of support groups, including an online peer support group for younger onset dementia.
I learned so much from the carer’s support group. How to manage the bad days, how to adapt and cope with different symptoms, and how to continue living and enjoying life. I got better at asking for support from family and friends. I started getting care services at home which helps me have a regular break from caring to do other things I need to do.
With the mental health plan, John started seeing a psychologist. In time, his depression lifted. We were able to talk more openly and make plans to cope with whatever the future held. The peer support group really helped John to see there was still plenty of time and opportunity for him to do things he loved. And, after lots of planning, we even managed to take that overseas holiday.
Coming to terms with dementia
There are counselling services, support groups and advisors who can help you come to terms with diagnosis and take the next steps forward.
If you are a person with dementia, read these pages: 1.5 Find hope and 2.3 Support to adjust to diagnosis.
If you are a carer for a person with dementia, read these pages: 1.5 Finding hope and 2.4 Plan to prevent depression.
Making plans and geting services
Read this page about making a life plan for the present: 5.2 Make a life plan for this year.
Read this page about types of services for people with dementia and for carers: 5.5 Types of Services.