OKC Expert Advice: Dealing with Dementia - 405 Magazine

OKC Expert Advice: Dealing with Dementia

What to do after a diagnosis.

There are few things scarier to hear from your doctor than the words “It’s dementia.” Dementia is a general term for individuals experiencing a loss in at least two brain functions, one usually being memory loss, with its most common form being Alzheimer’s Disease. With over 10 million new cases of dementia diagnosed every year, there is an unfortunately strong chance that someone you love may be on the receiving end of those life-changing words. 

We all forget things, so how do you know when it is time to seek medical care? Physician Assistant Katie Dickey said, “What people need to be aware of is the lack of executive functioning that comes with dementia. If you notice someone seems less organized or is having trouble managing bills, those can be red flags. If they suddenly need a recipe for the sheet cake they have baked from memory for the last 30 years, it can be a sign of cognitive decline.” 

Dickey knows from experience, as her own mother was diagnosed at the age of 58 with a rare form of dementia called corticobasal degeneration. “My mom’s handwriting changed from a loopy cursive to a block print. When she would write my sister and I notes, she used to make a cat face in the M of Mom, but we noticed she stopped doing that, too.” 

Dickey said to first go to your primary care physician to have routine labs done. Other conditions like an undiagnosed UTI, pneumonia, diabetes or even a vitamin B12 deficiency can mimic dementia. Seeing a neurologist or a neuropsychologist is necessary for an actual diagnosis. 

If it is a form of dementia, Dickey recommended having some hard conversations … and soon. “You have to keep an open, ongoing conversation,” she said. “You’re not going to solve all that goes in to taking care of a person living with dementia in one day. You need to evaluate whether they are safe in where they are living. If they’re not, then you need to have a conversation about how they would like to live.” 

In many cases, a spouse turns into a full-time caretaker, which can be taxing and stressful. One option would be to have a home care company come to assist with showering, cooking and other daily activities so they are able to both stay in their home. Another option is to move into an assisted living facility.

Dickey is administrator and one of the founders of Legacy Senior Living, two assisted living facilities at 6900 NW 129th St. in OKC. “I created the home I wish had been available for my mom,” she noted. “A lot of people don’t want to go into assisted living because they think it will be like a nursing home, but there is a huge difference.” 

In assisted living like Legacy, patients are able to move from a home, into a home. While there are only seven bedrooms in each home, the facility is approved to have 10 residents, so couples can both move in and stay together, even if only one person has been diagnosed. Medical care is provided on site through the point of needing hospice so that patients are able to “age in place.” 

Having community can be beneficial, and there are local resources available including Villages OKC and the Alzheimer’s Association of Oklahoma City. There is also a support group called Moving Mom and Dad, which takes place at Crossing’s Church. Though a dementia diagnosis is overwhelming and sad, making decisions early as a family will ease some stress in the future. 


Dickey has one additional piece of advice: Check in frequently on your aging parents. “It’s really important that you see your parents as often as possible. You don’t want to find out things have changed and be forced to have a huge discussion in one weekend.” She suggests the book How to Say It to Seniors by David Solie as an introductory resource for these tough conversations.