Receiving a diagnosis of cognitive impairment can leave you feeling helpless. It can be scary to face something that you don’t have complete control over. However, there are various things you can do to prepare yourself and your loved ones. There are also many ways to deal with the cognitive impairment you have, whether it helps you slow its progress or deal with the problems that arise from it. By taking certain steps and knowing what to expect, you can face these challenges more effectively.
Facing a Diagnosis of Cognitive Impairment
Everyone will respond differently to a diagnosis of cognitive impairment. There is no right or wrong way to do this. After a diagnosis, you should give yourself enough time to process the information and allow yourself to adapt to your new situation. It may be hard to put on a brave face every day. While some days you may feel acceptance of the diagnosis, on others you may feel overwhelmed and upset. You will need to allow yourself time to feel your emotions.
Dealing with the Emotional Effects of a Diagnosis
A diagnosis of cognitive impairment can lead to emotional turmoil. You will go through countless emotions, primarily fear, anger, and shock. The fear and disbelief you experience can be consuming. It is not unusual to feel as if the diagnosis destroys your confidence and you are left with low self-esteem.
Isolation is another common feeling shared by those that have been diagnosed, as you may feel like those closest to you cannot understand what you are going through.
Although there is no cure for many cognitive impairment diseases, it does not mean that there is nothing you can do about them. There are treatments available that will help with some symptoms, slow the progression of the disease, and help you live your best life.
Steps to Cope with a Diagnosis
1. Reach Out to Others
There are many steps that you can take to help you cope with a diagnosis of cognitive impairment. It is especially important to reach out to others if you feel isolated. As much as you may feel cut off from your friends and family who may not understand what you are going through, the support and love from others can have a positive impact on your emotional and mental health. The greater your support system is, the better you will be able to cope with the symptoms.
2. Take Steps to Slow the Advancement of the Cognitive Impairment
Cognitive impairments like Alzheimer’s have no cure, but that does not mean that you cannot slow down the progression of the disease. There are many things you can do to achieve this and maintain your independence for longer.
Regular exercise is a great way to stimulate the brain and support its ability to maintain neural pathways (1). Excerise increases blood flow through the brain, helping to slow the deterioration of your cognitive abilities. Mental stimulation is also vital because challenging your brain will strengthen your cognitive skills and help you stay healthy for longer.
Creating a brain-healthy diet and sticking to it is another way to fight the advancement of cognitive impairment. Eating the right food for your brain helps promote communication between brain cells, reduce inflammation, and protect neurons. Another way to get the nutrients you need is by taking a daily supplement. These supplements provide specific nutrients that may promote brain health and slow the progression of your symptoms.
It is also important to get sufficient sleep because it plays a big role in your health too. Getting quality sleep allows your brain to flush out toxins and stops the build-up of damaging plaques (2).
Finally, you should try and manage stress as best you can. If left unchecked, stress can lead to key memory areas in your brain shrinking, hinder nerve cell growth, and exacerbate cognitive impairment symptoms.
3. Deal with Anxiety and Depression
Patients who receive a diagnosis can often get depressed or anxious. This is a problem as symptoms of these mental health disorders can make cognitive impairment worse. There are plenty of ways to help you overcome depression and anxiety, like medication and counseling. Ensuring that you do not ignore the symptoms and get the help you need is crucial to dealing with anxiety and depression (3).
4. Pursue Activities that Bring You Joy
Pursuing meaningful relationships and activities is essential for your happiness and nourishing your soul. When symptoms advance and certain activities become harder, you can still find things that bring you joy. Taking part in activities that you love can have a positive effect on you and your outlook on life. Devoting time to hobbies such as traveling, volunteering, or spending time in nature will enrich your life and help you face the disease.
A diagnosis of cognitive impairment can be scary and confusing. The good news is that there are many steps you can take to cope with and slow the progress of cognitive impairments, ensuring that you live life the way you want to. Pursuing activities you enjoy, surrounding yourself with people you love, stimulating your brain, and nourishing your body are some of the best things you can do for yourself as you take on this new chapter of your life. Be kind to yourself as you navigate these changes, and make sure to always prioritize your emotional wellbeing in addition to your physical health.