Even with dementia diagnosis, life can be fulfilling

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"A calm mind brings inner strength and self-confidence, so that's very important for good health." - Dalai Lama

A diagnosis of Alzheimer's, or any form of dementia, can leave a person feeling disconnected, isolated or abandoned from others. You might feel unsure about where to turn, and think that no one can possibly understand what you're going through.

People living with early-stage Alzheimer's have said that one of the most important lessons they learned early on in their diagnosis is this: They could not just wait for others to help them - they had to go out and help themselves to the best of their ability.

Coming to terms with your diagnosis and the emotions you are feeling will help you accept your diagnosis, move forward, and discover new ways to live a positive and fulfilling life.

You are the only person who can change how you feel about your diagnosis. It is important to find healthy ways to cope with your emotions.

This can be difficult in the beginning. But once you make the commitment to take care of your emotional needs, you might find that you can rise to the challenge and face your diagnosis.

This is a new phase of your life, and you can choose to experience it with a sense of connection to your emotional health.

When working through your feelings, try a combination of approaches. Here are a few suggestions that we teach in our Connections Class at Memory Matters.

  • Keep a journal. Write down your thoughts about your diagnosis,
  • Share your feelings with close family and friends. Speak openly. Your loved ones are struggling too, so it is up to you to help them understand.
  • Build a care team that understands your current and future needs and wishes.
  • Recognize the symptoms of the disease so you can adapt to these changes and develop coping strategies.
  • Learn new things. Yes, this is possible even with a diagnosis. Your memory might not be as sharp, but it is vital that you keep learning.

The Memory Matters Connections Program provides cognitive learning classes for people diagnosed with early-stage dementia. The students are aware of their diagnosis and are eager to learn brain-stimulating activities to improve their memory.

The program encourages the class to engage in strong cognitive stimulating activities that promote memory. Educational lessons can enhance thinking skills and memories.

Our class touches on the five pillars for a healthy brain: socialization, diet, exercise, sleep and mental activity.

The most important decision you can make after a diagnosis is to keep your brain active. Brain training is essential.

Call about our classes. Connection classes are offered on Hilton Head and, beginning in January, in Bluffton. Resolve now to be the best you can be both physically and mentally.

For more information, visit mymemorymatters.org.

Karen Doughtie is assistant director of Memory Matters, serving Bluffton and Hilton Head. karen@memory-matters.org; mymemorymatters.org

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