Early stages of dementia and staying independent

If you have been diagnosed with a dementia, it's important to think about your independence. Keeping active and looking after your health and wellbeing can help you stay independent.

Progression of dementia and staying independent

If you are living with a dementia, you shouldn’t stop doing what you enjoy in life. You should try to stay as independent as possible and continue to enjoy your usual activities.

If you have been diagnosed with a dementia, or you are caring for someone with the condition, you can get advice and support available to help you live well.

Your GP, Health and Social Care Services and voluntary organisations can all provide advice and support

The symptoms of a dementia will usually get gradually worse. How quickly this occurs will depend on:

  • your general health
  • the type of dementia you have

Looking after your health

Living a healthy lifestyle is important for everyone, including people living with a dementia. Eating well and exercising are important for good health.

Changes in eating habits can occur, particularly if someone with a dementia is struggling to find the words to ask for food, which can result in weight loss and poor nutrition.

Self-care

Self-care involves looking after your own health and wellbeing with the support of those involved in your care.

For example, this includes:

  • maintaining good physical and mental health
  • preventing illness or accidents 
  • effective care of minor ailments and long-term conditions

Safe-care with support can help people living with the condition to have less anxiety and be more active and independent.

Maintaining a social life

It’s easy to feel isolated and alone if you or someone you care for has a dementia. Keeping in contact with others is good for people with a dementia. It can help them keep active and stimulated.

Some people find it difficult to talk about their own or a family member’s dementia.

If a friend or family member finds it hard to talk to you, make the first move. It can help if you explain that you still need to see them and may need their support.

You may also find it helpful to join a local group of people with dementia and their families.

This can offer an opportunity to get advice from others who are going through or have been through similar situations.

Keeping active and occupied

People with a dementia should continue to enjoy their hobbies and interests as much as possible. These activities may keep a person with a dementia alert and stimulated, so they maintain an interest in life.

If you are living with a dementia:

  • keeping contact with friends and family is important
  • activities, like walking or meeting your friends, can help you feel positive and motivated
  • your activities and hobbies may change as the condition progresses, however, you can and should continue to enjoy your activities
  • you may also find it helpful to join a local group of people living with the condition and their families, for example, sharing and exploring new activities and support

Living at home when you have a dementia

In the early stages of dementia, many people are able to go about their daily lives in the same way as before their diagnosis.

As the condition progresses, it is likely that help will be needed. It’s better to get this help in place early.

Key things can include help with:

  • housework
  • shopping
  • garden
  • adapting a home, for example, to help increase safety, mobility and independence

Talk to family, friends and health professionals about how they can help you to stay independent.

Tips to help you stay independent

If you are living with a dementia, tips to help you stay independent include:

  • keep a diary and write down things you want to remember
  • pin a weekly timetable to the wall
  • put your keys in an obvious place, such as a large bowl in the hall
  • have a daily newspaper delivered to remind you of the date and day
  • put labels on cupboards or drawers
  • place helpful telephone numbers by the phone
  • write reminders to yourself – for example, put a note on the front door to take your keys
  • programme people’s names and numbers into your phone
  • install safety devices, such as gas detectors and smoke alarms
  • put bills on direct debits, so you don't forget to pay them
  • a pill organiser box can be helpful for remembering which medications to take and when

Where to find help and support

You can find more information and support services from the following organisations, see also ‘more useful links section’:

The Public Health Agency has also produced a range of information to help support people with a dementia, their families and friends.

This information includes the following publications:

More useful links

The information on this page was adapted from original content by NHS choices.

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