How can I maintain my sense of well-being after my diagnosis of dementia?

The definition of “well-being” includes the good or satisfactory condition of existence, a state characterized by health, happiness and prosperity. The notion of well-being is part of the mission and philosophy of The Eden Alternative, which asserts that no matter how old we are or what challenges we live with, life is about continuing to grow.

The Eden Alternative identifies seven domains of well-being, which is the focus of the book, “Dementia Beyond Disease,” written by Dr. Al Power. These seven domains include identity, growth, meaning, connectedness, security, autonomy and joy.

One of the basic proponents of well-being is having and keeping that sense of identity; your personhood, that others understand and acknowledge you and preserve that which you are at all times. You have a history to preserve and to be respected and you should uphold it as such for as long as you can and let others know how important it is to you. You need to know that you are still valued and that your feelings matter.

Growth is another domain to well-being. You are continually expanding and evolving, and you will continue to develop. As Power puts it in one of his presentations, “As long as you are breathing, growth is possible.”

Make sure to continue to do meaningful activities in your life, as “meaning” is another important domain. This meaning and purpose speaks to your personal history and values and what is significant and sacred to you in your life.

Being connected is vital for individuals with dementia, for isolation may only accelerate the progression of the disease.

The late Dr. Richard Taylor, who suffered from younger onset Alzheimer’s, was often perplexed at the exclusion by his close friends. After Taylor’s diagnosis, one friend told him that he didn’t call him anymore because he didn’t know what to say. Taylor told his friend, “Just say ‘Hello.’”

Autonomy is a central domain for well-being for it means having choice and control in your life.

Make your plans and desires known to others and be vigilant in your self-determination.

The seventh domain, joy, does not need an explanation. Everyone deserves great pleasure, contentment and happiness in their lifetime, and a diagnosis of dementia should not diminish or erase that.

An individual’s well-being is affected by many different factors. Our life experiences and the environment have a profound effect on making us who we are.

Maintain the seven domains of well-being and keep a gratitude journal. It can give you a sense of stability and peace with your dementia diagnosis.

Contact Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, Director of Services at Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area, (225) 334-7494, advice@alzbr.org, or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.