Sunday, 22nd October 2017
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Focus on Dementia – First Steps following a diagnosis

This is the fifth article in our "Focus on Dementia" series and this week we look at what to do if you or a loved one is diagnosed with dementia. Here's what you need to know.

What is dementia?

Dementia is caused by a number of diseases that damage the nerve cells in the brain. Common symptoms may include difficulties with thinking and language, problem-solving and the carrying out of everyday tasks, as well as issues with memory loss and changes in mood and behaviour.

Get informed

A dementia diagnosis can be overwhelming and the unknown is always daunting but you're not alone and it’s important to know that people with dementia can live active and fulfilling lives with the right practical and emotional supports. You can find out more about the condition, how to access services and get advice by speaking with your doctor or with a trained helpline adviser on Freephone 1800 341 341. Understandtogether.ie provides a range of information about dementia and services and supports available.

It’s also a good idea to talk to health service professionals, such as a public health nurse, about accessing assistance such as Home Help, Meals-on-Wheels, and Family Carers Ireland supports. Even if you don’t need this assistance now, the knowledge will be helpful if you do need it at a later point.

Telling friends and family

It can be very tempting to carry on as if nothing has changed and to ignore the challenges. But as the number of people living with dementia continues to increase, people are becoming more aware and there is an increased understanding of the condition so sharing your diagnosis may not be as scary as you think. By telling friends and family, they can be more considerate and understanding and it can also make socialising easier. Of course, it is a personal choice whether or not to share your diagnosis but evidence suggests that the sooner people tell those closest to them, the sooner that they can get the support they need to continue living well.

Stay active and in touch!

When confronted with a diagnosis of dementia, some may feel like they no longer want to go out or continue doing their usual activities. However, it is really important to stay in touch with friends, family and the local community and to keep doing your favourite past-times and hobbies, if possible. It can make a big difference.

Assistive technology

There are a range of devices and systems that can help people with dementia to continue to live independently. For example, calendar clocks provide information about the day, date and time, while signs and notice boards can be used as reminders and to post messages. Information on assistive technology is available through occupational therapists.

Practical steps

After receiving a diagnosis, it’s a good idea to take some practical steps to make life run more smoothly. Here are practical issues to consider:

1. Organise your finances and consider paying bills by direct debit to make payments easier.

2. Some life insurance/assurance policies and mortgage protection policies will make a payment on a diagnosis of dementia. Other policies such as Specified Illness Cover and Critical Illness Cover may also make a payment. If you are in employment and have Income Protection Cover, you may be able to make a claim if you are unable to work following your diagnosis.

3. You are not automatically excluded from driving, but it is important that you inform your insurance company. You will also need to inform the National Driving Licence Service and take an ‘on-road’ driving assessment.

4. Talk to your solicitor about drawing up an Enduring Power of Attorney. This sets out who you would like to manage legal, financial and personal care decisions for you, if there comes a time when you cannot make these decisions for yourself.

This feature is the fifth in a series of "Dementia: Understand Together" articles. Next week we look at supporting a loved one with dementia. For more information, Freephone 1800 341 341 or visit http://www.understandtogether.ie

"Focus on Dementia" is an initiative of the Dementia: Understand Together campaign.

Dementia: Understand Together is a public support, awareness and information campaign. It aims to inspire people from all sections of society to stand together with the 500,000 Irish people whose families have been affected by dementia.

The campaign is led by the HSE, working with the Alzheimer Society of Ireland and Genio, and supported by Waterford Today.

When, not if

There are many things that come out of a political party's habitual think-in and most of them while they might sound good are a bit pie in the sky. Potential policies that might happen if and when the economics are right, which in most cases they never are. But if anything they show in which direction a party's thinking is going. And in the case of Fine Gael it seems that the most important thinking that they are doing, and this is a stretch, is when the next general election is going to be. Of course they have to get over the budget and all the usual stuff that Governments have to deal with on a daily basis but the most important thing is when the next general election is going to be. And it seems that by all the talking that it is going to be early next year. That is if Fine Gael have their way about it which might not be the case.

Since the advent of new Taoiseach Leo Varadkar the party has already had to weather a number of storms and just because a political party wants to do something in one particular way, even if it is in Government, it doesn't mean that it is going to turn out like that. Especially when it is a minority government. So it is no wonder that the party is already trying to figure out when it would be the best time and best way for it to go to the country.

They are already talking about bringing out a 'living manifesto' early so that all of it's policies could be open to scrutiny and would not be the preserve of vested interest parties who would be particularly vociferous at election time. In other words it doesn't want to be rushed and it doesn't want to be pressurised which is a good way for a political party to be. Particularly when it looks as if going by all the election polls that there are other parties out there that are looking to take over power from you.

Essentially Fine Gael wants to put itself in the best position possible and when you know, more or less, when the general election is going to be then you get to plan around that. It will be one of the few advantages that the party will have so it might as well play it's hand well.

Fine Gael's recent think-in in Clonmel has led to many headlines which shine a positive light on the creativity of the party. But a political party needs to be more than creative when it comes to election time. It has to be clever and more than that it has to be smart and all of the things that it is doing now is playing into that. It is essentially taking the electorate for grown ups and treating them as such.

Of course all of that might change and it might revert to politics as usual but for now it looks as if Fine Gael is making all the right moves. We might not know when the election is definitely going to be but judging by the moves Fine Gael is making we know it's going to be soon enough.

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