Ways to Stay Engaged Socially with Dementia
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Ways to Stay Engaged Socially with Dementia
Social interaction is crucial to our quality of life. It supports our mental health, it gives us a sense of purpose and belonging, and it even positively affects our physical health. According to some studies, people with strong social connections live longer.
Why are social connections important for those living with dementia?
It’s tempting to withdraw from society when you’ve received an Alzheimer’s diagnosis or a diagnosis for another form of dementia. You’re worried that your symptoms will interfere with your social interactions, or you’re worried that people will stigmatize you and misunderstand the disease, which is sadly very common.
But the loneliness that is often induced by dementia can make symptoms worse. That’s because loneliness causes mental and physical health issues that can cause someone with dementia to decline much faster than they would if they were consistently socially engaged with others.
Staying socially connected when you are living with Alzheimer’s reduces loneliness, which in turn:
It’s important to note that studies have found the quality of social connections and interactions is more important than the quantity. Simply having a lot of friends will not reap the benefits listed above. However, having real, meaningful connections with others will improve your health physically and mentally.
Ways to stay socially engaged with dementia
Now that you know why it’s important to stay engaged socially while you are living with dementia, let’s move on to the how. There are many activities and opportunities that will allow you or your loved one to continue living a full and social life with dementia.
1. Stay involved in whatever you’re involved in.
If you go to church regularly, have dinner with your family on Sundays, or go to the movies with a friend on Fridays, keep doing that. What you’re already doing is the best place to start as far as staying socially engaged.
Don’t quit these activities because you have a diagnosis. Some of these activities will need to change over time to ensure your safety, but keep them up for as long as possible and make adjustments as needed.
2. Join a dementia or Alzheimer’s support group.
Support groups provide a community of people who are going through the same experiences with dementia that you are. Knowing you’re not alone, being able to share your experiences in a safe space, and finding community with people who can truly empathize with you is invaluable.
To find a support group near you, visit your local Alzheimer’s Association chapter online here.
This might be something you’ve done in the past or are doing now, but volunteering in your community does not only allow you to make meaningful social connections with others; it also allows you to focus on helping those around you, which can help reduce anxiety and relieve depression.
4. Join a group or club.
Books clubs and social clubs based on particular interests are readily available. Whether it’s hiking, photography, or swing dancing, there is likely a social group tailored to this activity in your community.
Facebook is an excellent resource for groups like this, or you can check with your local YMCA or Alzheimer’s Association chapter.
5. Make social engagement a part of your routine.
Whatever activity you decide to participate in, whether it’s a support group, volunteering or simply spending time with your family, make it a part of your weekly routine. This will ensure you’re getting the social engagement you need and will help on the days you’re tempted to remain isolated or alone. If you have a standing appointment, you’re less likely to cancel it.
Just like a healthy diet and good sleep, staying socially engaged is crucial for your health if you are living with dementia. Don’t predetermine that you are no longer included in society because of your diagnosis. Maintain your current social life, join a social club, volunteer—do whatever you can to engage in meaningful social interactions as often as you can.
A full and meaningful life is possible while living with dementia, and you deserve to have one.