Step 2: Taking care of your well-being
Waiting for a memory assessment can be a difficult time. You may be experiencing strong emotions, or be worried about your appointment. However, there are some practical ways you are able to take care of your well-being while you’re waiting.
You may also find that the experience changes your mood and the wait can be frustrating. This can affect relationships with those closest to you. Some people find that this can cause tension with family members or friends.
Taking part in activities together, being able to share your worries or concerns with a friend or family member, and supporting each other can help.
What will I find here?
Emotions and feelings
Well-being of family members and friends
One of the most practical ways to manage your wellbeing during the wait for the memory assessment is to begin a mental well-being practice. We’ve collected some tips and resources below to help mental wellness. These can be great to do alone, or with family and friends. If you are struggling and feel like you need additional support to manage your mental health, you can also visit your GP, or check out the organisations listed in the available support section.
Tips & suggestions
Making good quality sleep a priority is a great way to support your wellness. Taking time to unwind before bed without screens can help, including replacing screen time with activities such as reading a book, and reducing caffeine intake in the afternoons and evenings. Sticking to a regular routine for bedtime and waking up can also help.
Spend time outside each day on a walk
Taking the time to go outside and walk is a great way to clear your mind, and is also great for your well-being. You might even have a local healthy walks scheme you can link up with to make some new friends or find some new places to walk.
Maintain your connection to family members and friends
When you’re feeling stressed, sometimes the last thing you want is to see people. Nevertheless, maintaining your connections to family and friends who can provide support and an ear to listen can be a great way to look after your mental well-being. Community Circles have some great resources to help you make the most of this.
Continue making time for the things you enjoy
What makes a good day for you will be totally different to what a good day is to the next person. You may find it useful to make a list of the things you enjoy to do, so you can plan activities to create more good days. We provide some useful templates and exercises in our downloadable booklet to help you do this.
Create a ‘Your Mind’ plan
Try the following quiz to get your personalised ‘Your Mind’ plan to help you deal with stress and anxiety.
Advance care planning
My Care Matters have produced a great handbook which can help you plan for the future and be shared with your health professional so they know your views. It’s a personal choice to have these conversations or make these plans, but we find that people often feel reassured to know that they have plans for their future health.
Emotions and feelings
It is normal to experience a range of emotions while waiting for your appointment. We discuss some of the difficult emotions and some coping strategies below, though you may not feel any of these, and that’s okay too!
Being anxious, fearful and upset
Not knowing what to expect during your memory clinic appointment and being worried about the outcome is a common feeling.
Learning about what to expect on the day and sharing your fears with a family member or friend can help.
We have also been told that there can be considerable anxiety about what the future holds. Some people get very tearful and upset with these thoughts. Keeping these emotions and feeling in perspective is important and whatever the diagnosis outcome is this will come with support to live well. Talking to people who are in a similar situation may help.
Should any of these feelings become overwhelming and are impacting day to day life then you can go back to your GP, or contact a charity like Mind who might be able to help.
Being angry and frustrated
Anger about your symptoms or other difficulties can be common during times of stress.
Getting out for a walk, writing down your feelings, or learning to recognise the feeling of anger without reacting to it (through meditation) can help you manage this difficult emotion.
We have also been told of frustration in getting memory problems recognised and getting appropriate support. Keeping a diary to document your concerns can help you explain your feelings to professionals, and continuing to ask questions until you are happy with the outcome can help. You can use the downloadable booklet to keep your notes for appointments in one place.
Feelings of loneliness and Isolation
People have told us they don’t know where to turn or who to talk to, but that talking to people going through this too is something that would help.
Although COVID has impacted the number of opportunities for face-face peer support there are many online groups you can join to speak to people in a similar position.
Reaching out to family and friends – talking to people about how you feel and what you are going through can help.
Getting support in the form of a DIY Circle can also help.
Joining a local group based on your interests can help you to maintain connections and even make some new ones. Ask to speak to your Social Prescribing link worker at your local GP to find out about things in your community.
For more practical help, Step 3 shares some organisations you can get in touch with for further support while you are waiting for your memory assessment.
How to support a friend or family member who is waiting for a memory clinic appointment
We recognise it is normally not just an individual who is affected by a referral to a memory clinic. Often their family or friends may also share their worries, or want to know how best to support someone during this time.
How to support a friend or family member
Listen: Sometimes someone might want your advice, and sometimes they might just want to vent their feelings. Either way, having someone there who can listen to a person’s concerns can be a great source of comfort.
Thinking about what good and bad days look like: Talking about what a good or bad day would look like can help people to think about what routines are important to their well-being. Note down what you discuss, and use this to plan what you can practically do to create more good days.
Understand: Stress can put a strain on any relationship, but there are things you can do to help. Understanding the changes which can happen in your relationship as a result of memory issues is a great step.
What you can expect from family members and friends
Someone waiting for a memory assessment may be feeling more stressed or upset than usual, and you may also be feeling similarly.
The delay between visiting the doctor with worries about memory issues and having a memory clinic appointment might mean you need to consider how to support someone in the meantime.
You might want to consider:
- What memory aids can help someone if they are struggling with memory issues?
- Is the home set up in such a way that the person is able to navigate it easily and safely if their orientation, balance or walking is affected?
- Are the person’s social needs being met? This is particularly important at the moment and ensuring that someone is supported to get outside, or communicate with family and friends if they want to can really help.
- What routines, habits or changes have happened recently that might be leaving someone feeling frustrated?
- Stress can cause sleep disturbances. If someone is having problems sleeping at night, what changes in routine can be tried to help this?
Taking care of your own well-being
You can’t pour from an empty cup, so it’s important to take care of your own well-being in order to be able to support a friend or family member. This webinar from TIDE has some great advice on self care for carers, such as making time to pursue your own hobbies, enjoying moments of mindfulness throughout the day such as when making a cup of tea, or joining support groups online.
Where to turn to for support when caring for others
These resources may help even if you do not identify yourself as a carer.
Although some of these organisations state that they are for carers of people living with dementia specifically, they also have useful resources for people whose family member or friend has concerns about their memory, whether or not they have a diagnosis of dementia.
Download our printable guide
This guide contains information and advice on staying well while waiting for a memory assessment, as well as a range of exercises you can complete to help you decide on what’s right for you.