Living With Dementia? Why Staying In Touch With Loved Ones is So Important.
Dementia is a spreading epidemic in the US that causes cognitive degeneration and memory loss. This disease can greatly affect a person's relationships and ability to connect with others. On the other hand, research shows that keeping socially active is important for slowing down the progression of dementia. How can people suffering from dementia stay in touch with their loved ones?
Looking for the best solution for keeping in touch with your loved one living with dementia? RecallCue’s Dementia Clock enriches the lives of your elderly loved ones with the ability to send messages, reminders, photos and more.
In this article:
What is dementia?
Dementia is a broad term that encompasses many different conditions. Alzheimer's Disease is the most common form of dementia, which can affect people of all ages. It is a progressive disease that gradually destroys brain cells and leads to memory loss, difficulties in thinking and reasoning, personality changes, and problems with language. According to the CDC There are currently an estimated 5.8 million people suffering from different forms of dementia in the US with that number expected to more than double by 2060. Worldwide, more than 55 million people live with dementia worldwide, and there are nearly 10 million new cases every year (WHO).
How dementia affects relationships
The effects of Alzheimer's Disease on family members are dependent on the severity of the disease and how it progresses. A person living with dementia may have difficulty communicating or remembering events from their past. These difficulties can make socializing and maintaining relationships harder as the condition progresses. The gap between what a person living with dementia recalls and actual events can sometimes be so great that Rachel Wonderlin, a well known Dementia care consultant, has coined the phrase “Embrace their reality” to describe the expectation from a person living with dementia's loved ones.
Certain stages of the disease, such as wandering, may limit how freely your loved one with dementia can move around on their own. This inability to leave the home unsupervised will mean more time alone with a caregiver and less interaction with family and friends.
For some people, especially children, interacting with their moody and forgetful loved one with dementia can be stressful or scary. In some cases timing can become critical as you try to catch them when they are in a good mood or high performing state. This can be a challenge if you live far away and your chances to visit are limited.
The importance of helping dementia people maintain relationships
Social engagement is one of the 7 pillars outlined by HelpGuide for preventing and slowing the progression of dementia, cognitive degeneration and memory loss. They stress the importance of regularly connecting face-to-face with others who care for you and even create new friendships. Regular social engagement can spark new brain connections, which stimulate activity. Moreover, studies have shown that loneliness can actually increase the risk for dementia.
7 ways for people suffering from dementia to stay social
The method your loved one chooses to stay social will highly depend on their stage and personal inclinations and capabilities. Here is a list of ways to stay social that range from requiring a high level of independence to being completely reliant on others.
Volunteering is a great way to stay active while doing something meaningful. You can try connecting with a local charity or community organization or search online on websites like VolunteerMatch for volunteer opportunities.
2. Join a club or social group.
Pursuing one’s interests is a great way to stay nimble and social. Help your loved one living with dementia find a club that caters to their hobbies and gathers for activities. Your local library is often a great place to start to find these kinds of groups. You can also visit your local community center or senior center for more age appropriate activities.
3. Take group classes (such as at the gym or a community college).
Taking classes has the double benefit of being both social and mentally or physically stimulating. Learning something new can give your loved one strength and instill them with new life vigor.
4. Make a weekly date with friends or family.
It is hard to make time in our busy schedules but as we stressed earlier, spending time with friends and family is essential for anybody's wellbeing, more so if they are living with dementia. Try and work out a schedule and have someone visit at least once a week. If you really can’t make it physically, you can always connect virtually through a Dementia Clock like RecallCue.
5. Get out (go to the park, museums, and other public places).
Just going out for a stroll and being around other people instead of being cramped up at home can make a huge difference. Staying lively and healthy is an important part of dementia care.
6. "Senior Living" home.
This may sometimes be a challenge due to the “refusal” phenomenon sometimes seen in people living with dementia. Your loved one may see a senior center as an attempt to meddle in their lives or “cart them away to a home”. Nonetheless, if presented in the right way, a senior living facility can serve as a social outlet as well as caring for your loved ones medical and other needs.
7. Choosing a caregiver for your loved one.
The decision of choosing a caregiver for your loved one living with dementia can be difficult. It is important to know what to look for and how to make the right decision. There are many factors that you need to consider when choosing a caregiver for your loved one with dementia, such as the person's experience, their availability, and their personality type. They need to be someone that your loved one will feel comfortable with and someone that you will feel comfortable with as well.
The key to social interaction with someone living with dementia:
Dementia Care Central outlines some key tips to keep in mind when you pay a visit to your loved one. To sum it up in one concept - put the person living with dementia in the center. Try and visit when is best for them and talk about and do things they like. Stay aware of their mental condition and adjust your behavior and speech to their needs. Keep interactions normal and fun by playing games or engaging in their favorite activities that can make them feel like everything is normal.
To conclude, staying in touch with loved ones living with dementia is so important because of the deep effects that the disease can have on relationships and the benefits that maintaining social activity can have for those suffering or at risk for dementia. There are many ways to stay social and your loved one may need your assistance arranging certain encounters and activities. These days, whether because of long distance, busy schedules or health concerns that have arisen during the Covid-19 pandemic, you and your family may find it harder to visit your loved one living with dementia. Luckily there are solutions that allow for video conferencing and staying in touch with your loved ones with messages, reminders, photos and more such as RecallCue.