Older adults living with Alzheimer’s or dementia are especially vulnerable to the effects of social isolation and loneliness.
Dementia also makes it difficult to maintain relationships or participate in social activities, which often creates detachment from family and friends.
It can be tough for family caregivers to watch someone they care about go through this.
And it’s especially hard when one of your main goals is to help them feel supported, connected, and engaged in their own life.
To combat loneliness and isolation, try these 4 meaningful ways to help someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia feel connected and enjoy life more.
1. Encourage spending time in nature It might not be safe for older adults to leave their homes for long periods of time in this current pandemic, but getting outside for just 10 or 20 minutes is a safe way to get the mood boosting effects of fresh air and natural scenery.
Spending time in nature can enhance mood, increase short-term memory, and even improve depression.
So, take your older adult for a walk around the neighborhood, help them grow plants in the backyard, or explore a quiet nature trail or wildlife preserve together.
2. Work on a craft project or hobby together Art therapy is thought to slow the pace of cognitive decline and reduce anxiety, depression, anger or sadness.
And sensory and tactile stimulation through hobbies or crafts help someone with dementia to express themselves creatively.
This type of outlet is especially helpful for people who have a difficult time with verbal communication.
To find something they’ll enjoy, think about your older adult’s previous interests and hobbies and find ways to adapt them to suit their current abilities.
Plus, don’t be afraid to try something that they’ve never done before.
3. Coordinate visits or calls from family and friends Even if your older adult doesn’t always remember each person in the family, it can be a source of comfort when they reach out and connect.
Covid-19 safety precautions might reduce the amount of physical interaction seniors can safely have with others, but if you enlist family and friends to chat with them, it can reduce feelings of isolation.
The University of Texas Health Science Center recommends the following ideas to help seniors stay in touch while staying safe:
Organize a virtual group meal for your older adult and other family members on Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime. Ask family and friends to send handwritten notes to your older adult, then read the letters aloud together as they arrive in the mail. Coordinate phone calls with a different family member each week or, if it’s safe, arrange socially distanced visits.
4. Find supportive mental health services Since the impact of dementia on mental health is so acute, your older adult might need help to cope with the major changes in their life.
Getting support for their mental health can make a big difference in your older adult’s outlook, behavior, and emotional regulation.
If they’re enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B, services like psychiatric evaluations, diagnostic tests, individual or family counseling, medication management, and depression screenings will likely be covered.