Dementia and Making Choices

As an adult, we all have the right to make our own decisions.  But this isn’t always easy at the best of times and often we may seek the advice of others to make sure we are doing the right thing.

For someone living with dementia, the decision making process is even more difficult.

How does dementia affect decision making? 

Dementia is the umbrella term for a number of conditions, the most common being Alzheimer’s Disease, that cause damage to the brain cells.  One of the more common symptoms that people recognise as a sign of dementia is short-term memory loss, although this isn’t always due to dementia. 

Whichever type of dementia the person has, the disease affects their ability to absorb and retain information, including weighing up choices and making reasonable judgements.  

During the early stages of dementia, many people will still have the ability to continue making decisions for themselves, and this should be encouraged for as long as possible.   Dementia is known as a progressive illness which means that it gets worse over time, but for many people the progression takes a slow pace so they can continue to make choices independently although some may require additional help.

Making choices as dementia progresses

As the illness progresses, there will still be many situations in which the person is capable of making decisions, although they may need someone to help them to follow this up.  For example, they may know what they want to eat for breakfast, but they need support to make it or they may choose where they want to go on holiday but would need someone to accompany them and to make the travel arrangements. 

The key to living a fulfilled life with dementia is having the right support in place so that the person can maintain as much independence as possible. 

During the later stages of dementia, the person’s ability to understand and communicate could become very limited.  If a family member or appointed person needs to make a decision on their behalf, it is best to work from previous conversations and knowledge i.e what the person would have wanted for themselves.  Whilst you may not always be comfortable in doing so, it is vital to have these sensitive conversations with the person whilst they are still able to communicate their wishes. 

Becoming a decision maker 

It is common for family members of those living with dementia to be given lasting power of attorney, which means you are appointed to make decisions on their behalf once they are no longer able to.  

Power of attorney only applies if the person lacks capacity to be able to make a decision – having a diagnosis of dementia does not automatically qualify.    Just because a person has memory loss, does not mean they are unable to make a choice about their own lives. 

Having the right support in place can aid a person living with dementia to make decisions on their own.  Even something as simple as written notes or voice recordings can help to record a person’s response.  

Making a decision on dementia care

At Home Instead we provide support for clients who are living with dementia and can do so in a number of different ways.  

Whatever level of support is required, this is a decision that is undertaken through consultation with both the client and their family members (if applicable).  The wellbeing and dignity of our clients is at the forefront of what we do - we understand how important it is to have a personalised care plan so taking full consideration of the wishes of the person receiving the care is absolutely essential.  

If you or a loved one requires home care including dementia support, we will be happy to talk you through the options.  Being able to remain at home with support in place can help those living with dementia to live independently for much longer. 

Contact our Care Manager for more information on dementia support at home.