Redefining Conversations About Dementia

A doctor practices having empathetic conversations about dementia with her elderly patient.
Conversations about dementia diagnoses are thankfully becoming more supportive and empathetic for a number of reasons.

A dementia diagnosis is never easy. It is the start of an emotional rollercoaster of fear, anxiety, uncertainty, grief, and more, all of which are heightened if the diagnosis is conveyed starkly, without empathy or compassion. There are steps physicians can (and should) take when delivering a dementia diagnosis to ease the initial impact, empowering and equipping the individual and family with support and knowledge.

Here are some of the ways physicians are striving to change how they approach conversations about dementia and why it matters.

  1. Empathy First: Rather than jumping right to statistics and medical jargon, doctors are now starting conversations with empathy and understanding. They understand the emotional impact of a dementia diagnosis and strive to create a safe space for individuals and their family members to convey their fears and concerns. Along with this empathetic approach, physicians are also encouraging open discussion about the practical aspects of managing dementia, like daily routines and available support services.
  2. Knowledge as Empowerment: Doctors are shifting towards an educational approach, equipping patients and families with knowledge about dementia. By explaining the condition in accessible language and providing resources for further learning, they empower individuals to better navigate the journey ahead. There is also a focus on the need for proactive measures, such as lifestyle modifications and early intervention strategies, to optimize well-being and delay the progression of the disease.
  3. Person-Centered Services: Acknowledging that every individual’s experience with dementia is different, doctors are shifting towards a person-centered approach to care. Ideally, they are engaging patients in discussions about their values, goals, and preferences, making sure care plans are designed to the person’s wishes and needs. This customized approach extends beyond medical treatment to cover holistic support, including emotional well-being and social connectedness, fostering a sense of dignity and autonomy.
  4. Supportive Networks: Doctors are increasingly connecting patients and families with supportive networks and resources in the community. Whether it’s dementia-friendly activities, specialized services, or caregiver support groups, these networks provide important emotional and practical support throughout the dementia journey. Medical professionals should also be advocating for the involvement of family caregivers in care planning and decision-making, recognizing their invaluable role in providing continuity of care and enhancing the person’s quality of life.
  5. Continued Communication: The conversation doesn’t end with the initial diagnosis. Doctors must be devoted to ongoing communication with patients and families, providing updates on the advancement of the disease, discussing treatment plans, and offering support each step of the way. This ongoing discussion fosters collaboration and trust, empowering individuals and their loved ones to make educated decisions and adjust to the evolving challenges of dementia caregiving.

If you suspect a loved one may be in the early stages of dementia, or if they’ve already been diagnosed, it’s crucial to find a physician that follows best practices such as these. It’s just as important to partner with a home care provider with specialized expertise in the unique needs of taking care of someone with dementia.

At Serenity Home Care, our Alzheimer’s and dementia care team is fully trained, highly skilled, and well known as the experts in Saanich, Sidney, Oak Bay and the surrounding areas. Our approach to conversations about dementia promotes independence, respect, and dignity. Get in touch with us at 250.590.8098 to find out more.