Older people with cognitive challenges often feel cut off socially, whether at home with friends and family or out in public with a companion. Finding ways to work through those situations ultimately has emotional and physical benefits.
The Benefits of Social Wellness
Improved cognitive function is a significant benefit of socialization for people with Alzheimer's disease and other dementia forms. When people interact with their surroundings, their brains are engaged in activities and conversations. In turn, socialization can improve memory and communication abilities.
Positive social interactions also boost in confidence and self-worth for those with dementia. That’s why visiting spaces in which staff, general members of the public — even service animals — who know how to communicate with people with dementia is important. Increased confidence goes a long way toward quelling the anxiety and stress that often hold older people back.
The most crucial benefit of socialization, for anyone, involves creating happiness. By reducing situations where someone with dementia feels frustrated and helpless, we foster a sense of self-control and contentment. Not only will your loved one have a more positive experience in a social environment, but family visits are apt to be less marred by anger that would come from your loved one being discontented.
Increasing Social Wellness
While the benefits of socialization for people with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia are logical, encouraging that kind of social wellness may seem more challenging. Here are some ideas you can help your family and your loved one’s support team to implement:
- Set the tone with your loved one’s other visitors by speaking softly and clearly, especially when addressing the person with dementia. Discourage the use of too many side conversations or loud background activity. (This is not the time to be having simultaneous game-watching and marathon baking sessions going on.)
- Put visitors at ease by not reacting dramatically to outbursts or rude remarks from your loved one. You can help communication move along by not scolding the older person or drawing too much attention to the outburst.
- When other family members or friends aren’t as straightforward as they could be in addressing the person with dementia, you can unobtrusively step in – perhaps by using something physical to make the question more understandable. “Did you hear what your granddaughter Marie asked you, Mom? She was wondering if that clock (pointing) still plays music.”
- Consider building some simple activities into the visit. Looking at photos or slides is one possible activity, especially if you provide opportunities for the person with Alzheimer's disease or dementia to contribute. Board games or simple video games can also be fun for the whole family, as can a movie – but give your guest of honor the option to end the activity if it gets overwhelming.
- When visitors arrive or leave, be sure to let them know how much it means to you and your loved one that they came. Even if there were moments of distress during the visit, reassure your guests that they did nothing wrong and that the experience is one your loved one will enjoy thinking about in days to come.
- When you’re in public with your loved one, try to implement the same methods. When you model a calm, respectful demeanor toward your loved one, professionals such as wait staff, cashiers, or hairdressers can pick up on the best way to address them.
Our parent organization, Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS), is proud to partner in Dementia Inclusive Cincinnati. This community-wide initiative provides information and training to teach others how to interact positively and respectfully with people who have Alzheimer's disease or other dementia disorders.
Find the Support You Need
You may decide it’s time to consider memory support services for your loved one. Majorie P. Lee offers several memory care household options, with specialized programs to help people with Alzheimer's disease and dementia learn new things while also having access to personalized therapies.
ERS is a leader in creating programs that help individuals and memory support communities. Much of this work happens at ERS' Center for Memory Support and Inclusion and ERS’ involvement with Dementia Inclusive Cincinnati. Contact us at your convenience to learn more about these programs or Marjorie P. Lee’s memory care households.