Living well with dementia
A diagnosis of dementia doesn't mean life has to grind to a halt overnight. Many people live well for years following a diagnosis, and there are lots of things you can do to continue enjoying later life and stay as independent as possible.
Tips to help you live well with dementia
Everyone deals with the challenges of dementia in their own way, but here are some ideas that have helped others.
- Follow a routine. Doing things at the same time each day or week can reassure you and stimulate your memory.
- Pin notes up in prominent places if there are things you need to do regularly, like locking the doors at night or putting out the recycling.
- Carry a notebook to write down daily tasks.
- Put important things, like glasses or keys, in the same place every time so that you know where to find them.
- Ask questions if you don't understand or have forgotten what was said.
- Put important telephone numbers by the phone.
- Stay in touch with family and friends rather than isolate yourself.
- Carry a help card that can let people know you have dementia and includes the contact details of a chosen contact.
- Make sure other people don't take over - they may think they're helping by doing as much for you as possible.
Can I still drive if I have dementia?
If you drive and receive a diagnosis of dementia, the law requires you tell the DVLA and your insurance company about your diagnosis.
Having dementia doesn't necessarily mean you'll have to stop driving straight away. The DVLA considers each case individually. If they decide you can continue to drive, they'll usually give you a driving licence that is valid for a limited period - usually a year - after which they'll review your condition.
See Alzheimer's Society's factsheet Driving and dementia for more information.
How will dementia affect me at work?
If you're still working, it's a good idea to tell your employer about your dementia diagnosis so they can help to you continue working.
Once you've told your employer, they have a legal duty to take reasonable steps to help you to continue working. This could include changing your work schedule, simplifying your routine, or using technology such as a computerised diary to remind you of deadlines and meetings.
If you decide to stop working, get advice on your pension and any benefits you may eligible for first.
If you're in the armed forces, work on a plane or ship, or your job involves driving, you must tell your employer if you are diagnosed with dementia.
Find out more with Alzheimer's Society's guide Employment.
Can I still go on holiday if I have dementia?
A diagnosis of dementia does not make holidays impossible. Many people still enjoy new and exotic places and can manage well with a little planning and support. But if you find new environments confusing or overwhelming, you may prefer to go somewhere familiar.
You can always enjoy a specialist holiday if you need extra help and support.
- Revitalise provide short breaks for people with disabilities and their carers
- Tourism for All also advise on accessible holidays for people with dementia
- Dementia Adventure specialises in arranging holidays and short breaks for people with dementia.
However, if you're going abroad, make sure you disclose your dementia when getting travel insurance. If not, it might not cover you if you have an accident or illness linked to your dementia. These policies sometimes have higher premiums, so it's a good idea to shop around.
What more can I do to live well with dementia?
Keeping active, both physically and mentally, can help you feel more positive and remind you, and others, what you still have to offer. There's lots you can do to make the most of every day.
- Socialising. Keep in touch with family and friends and attend local social groups. Visit Get Involved to find Friendship Centres near you where you can meet others.
- Exercise. Staying active is good for your health and can also improve your mood and lift your spirits. See our Healthy Living guide for suggestions.
- Radio and music. Some people find it hard to concentrate on the television. Listening to the radio can be easier as the brain only has to concentrate on the sound. Music can help bring back memories, which can be reassuring and enjoyable.
- Reading and puzzles. If it's hard to follow a book, try reading short stories or newspaper or magazine articles. Keeping doing crosswords and Sudoku if you enjoy them, and don't worry if it takes you longer to complete them or you need to switch to an easier version.
- Cooking. Try adapting your favourite recipes or look for new recipes with fewer steps. Find out about adapted kitchen tools that can make life easier.
- Gardening. Getting outside can make you feel a lot better. If you're finding gardening harder than you used to, contact Thrive who offer advice and practical solutions, such as specially adapted tools.
- Voluntary work. Think about the sort of things you enjoy doing and what you have to offer. Contact Volunteering England to find out about volunteering opportunities.
For more information call Age UK on 0800 055 6112