Worldwide, over 47 million people are living with dementia. On top of that, one person in the United States develops Alzheimer’s nearly every 67 seconds – a disease which, according to the World Health Organization, contributes to as many as 70 percent of dementia cases.
While Alzheimer’s creates challenges for those who live with it – and for their loved ones who watch them endure it – dementia should never define a person, or lead them to believe they ought to just give up and submit to it. From its early stages and for as long as possible, those living with Alzheimer’s owe it to themselves to get the most out of life. And there are so many ways to do just that!
The Alzheimer’s Association suggests finding strength wherever you can. This is going to be different for everyone. My grandmother who was diagnosed a few months ago, for example (and still manages to make me look lazy in comparison to her!), has always been active in her community theater for the last 50-plus years. Although the group only performs shows from May through August, she is choosing to continue nurturing her love of the arts by taking in live music performances as often as she can, from her granddaughter’s choral concert to jazz bands at the town’s local concert venue. It’s an atmosphere that makes her feel like herself – not like some version of herself with Alzheimer’s.
Perhaps the most obvious source of strength for many individuals is connection to loved ones. This support may be from your spouse, children, close friends or even your pet. Furthermore, staying social can help you avoid feelings of isolation, and even ward them off for those closest to you.
As beneficial as surrounding yourself with loved ones can be, it’s OK – and healthy – to crave some alone time, too. Taking a solo trip to a place that holds fond memories can be comforting, and can give you a breather from the time you’re surely spending answering loved ones’ questions about your condition and the changes to come. It’s natural to grieve after learning you are living with dementia – take what time you need to for yourself.
While receiving an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis can be a scary time for you and your loved ones, it can be extremely beneficial to take a step back and focus on your sources of strength. Creativity? Charity? Family barbecues? Curling up with a good book? There’s no wrong answer. Take a deep breath, ask for help when you need it – and prove that you are not defined by dementia.