Alzheimer’s and dementia can be extremely isolating for both the person with the disease and the caregiver. It’s important for both parties to stay engaged as much as possible throughout the journey.
Those in the early stages of Alzheimer’s may begin to isolate themselves if they’re having a hard time keeping up in conversations or understanding what’s going on around them. If they’ve had to stop working or driving, the chance of becoming secluded increases significantly. Alzheimer’s advocacy orgnaizations have found that many people experiencing this benefit from keeping engaged and often find great comfort being around others who are in the same stage of the disease. Finding a local early stage support group can provide them with a much-needed community that will build their self-esteem, give them something to look forward to and help them cope with navigating this new experience.
Caregivers, too, sometimes find that they lose part of themselves during this challenging process. They are often home alone for long hours – sometimes for many years – with the person for whom they are caring, and it’s easy for their social circles to shrink. Even though they’re with someone – often 24 hours a day – it can be a very lonely experience for the caregiver. It’s important for them to spend time with others, away from the person for whom they’re caring, to help revive their energy and spirit and remind themselves that there is more to their identity than being a caregiver.
What you can do
Keeping a standing weekly or monthly get-together with friends may be a great way to ensure you take a break despite a busy schedule. It’s important to remember that no one should have to go through this process alone. Even if you’re an only child caring for a parent, resources to help guide you through the legal, financial, medical and housing aspects of dementia are only a phone call away. Organizations like CaringKind exist to provide education and support to the Alzheimer’s community and encourage you to seek information and help.
There are ways for you and your relative to stay engaged together. Many museums and cultural institutions have specially-trained staff who run programing solely for the Alzheimer’s community. Sometimes it just takes a trained third party – and different perspective – to increase communication between you and the person with the disease. Everyone will benefit from it.
Reach CaringKind on their 24-hour help line by calling (646) 744-2900.