One of the most important elements of life is our connection to others. Having someone to share experiences, our history and even the daily “ups and downs” with is invaluable to both our physical, mental and emotional well-being.
That doesn’t change because of a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
If you’re caring for a parent or family member who is living with cognitive change, you’re likely familiar with how important healthy food, restful sleep and activities can be to their quality of life. But you may not have realized the significance of social relationships and staying connected to others in supporting their overall health.
Benefits of Social Interaction
There are many advantages to remaining socially active, regardless of cognitive health. Below are a few of the primary benefits for many older adults:
- Higher quality of life
- Lowered stress levels
- Decreased risk of physical health conditions such as heart disease and high blood pressure
- May contribute to delayed symptoms of dementia
- Emotional support
- Improved sense of self-worth
- Sense of belonging
How social interaction can improve quality of life for those living with dementia
Studies have shown that socializing is nearly as influential to one’s health as diet and exercise. For those living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, it is just as important, but may be more challenging to achieve. Some families might notice behavioral changes in their loved one, including a tendency to withdraw from others, which can lead to isolation and poor social connection.
Although each individual will respond to cognitive change differently, there are many ways the benefits of social connection can help improve and support their quality of life, such as the following:
- Increased feelings of belonging
Those living with Alzheimer’s disease may feel lonely and apart. Companionship and socializing can spark feelings of connectedness.
- Improved sense of self-worth
Feeling included and a part of the family and life around them can increase positive feelings of self-confidence and worth.
- Decreased feelings of loneliness
If one feels apart from others, feelings of loneliness can arise. Helping them understand they’re still an important member of the family can go a long way.
- Moments of happiness created
Happiness is still very possible to experience for those who are living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Helping them to enjoy a few of their favorite activities can increase feelings of happiness and engagement.
- May improve sense of time and place
Visiting someone with dementia and sharing experiences or activities together may help the individual be more aware of the present.
How to Help Your Loved One Stay Socially Active
If your parent or family member could use some help and encouragement to stay connected to and interacting with others, you might want to consider these tips:
- Offer companionship
Understand how important engagement with others is to your loved one. Look for ways to provide genuine companionship and support as they navigate new challenges.
- Arrange for family and friends to visit
Others may be unsure if visits are welcomed. Encourage family and friends to remain in contact and give them suggestions on how to make the visits pleasant and comfortable.
- Don’t forget the grandchildren
Children have a natural way to bring out a grandparent’s smile and can provide so much pleasure and joy. Plan ahead for simple activities when they visit.
- Look for social opportunities
Search out activities that involve others if your loved one would enjoy the company. Even sharing quiet moments such as looking through a photo album can bring a sense of belonging.
- Plan purposeful activities
Try to spend time doing activities that have meaning for your loved one and not only those that keep him or her busy. Use their past hobbies, interests or pursuits as inspiration.
- Create a comfortable environment for socializing
Take steps to make your loved one, and the space, as comfortable as possible. Crowded places or loud rooms may increase anxiety. Consider what would be best for your parent.
- Personalize the time
Make sure you tailor any visits and activities to the likes and preferences of your family member. Avoid any “one-size-fits-all” plans or expectations of what an activity should accomplish.
How a Memory Care Community Can Help
A memory care community is designed to support the independence and quality of life of its residents. They provide therapies, activities and group gatherings that encourage everyone to engage with each other and the community as a whole.
The care team understands the importance of social interaction and are there to build personal, rich relationships with those they care for. Having received special training in the best practices of supporting those living with cognitive change, they help their residents feel safe, secure and connected. Memory care communities can also be a great resource for the family as they too learn how to navigate the challenges that come with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Life at Eskaton Communities
The word Eskaton means “dawn of a new day.” In our communities, we see each day as an opportunity to enhance the lives of our residents. We’ve been serving the Sacramento region and Northern California for over 50 years.
The Eskaton Difference starts with our life-enriching programs and collaborative partnerships. With a national reputation for innovation, we focus on creating communities that provide our residents everything they need for purposeful living. We invite you to visit one of our award-winning communities to discover some of the benefits we offer, such as:
- Private residences
- Delicious and nutritious meals
- Social opportunities to meet and make new friends
- Creative activities and therapies
- Fitness centers and exercise classes
- Housekeeping services
- Transportation services
- 24-hour staffing
- Free Wi-Fi
- And much, much more!
If you’re considering whether senior living could be the best choice for you or your loved one, we’re here to answer any questions that you may have. We also invite you to download our complimentary information, Funding Senior Living & Services.
To schedule a personalized tour, call us at 1-866-ESKATON (or 1-866-375-2866) or visit eskaton.org.