Living with Alzheimer’s disease can affect your social life. Whether it is you or a loved one who has the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, its presence can affect your ability and willingness to socialize.
Going out to events and parties may not be as practical as before, and not always being able to remember people’s names and take part fully in conversations may feel limiting.
The presence of Alzheimer’s disease may also change how people interact with you socially. And, unfortunately, if the disease affects a loved one, it may also rob you of a confidant and social partner.
Yet, social activity and connection is such an important part of life. It helps to prevent boredom and loneliness, and it can lift your mood. So, what can you do, when Alzheimer’s is in your life, in order to keep as socially engaged as possible?
Even being aware of the need to keep in contact with people is an important step. Otherwise, without even realizing it, your social life could become ever quieter and social isolation could grow.
That doesn’t mean, though, that people with Alzheimer’s disease and their loved ones and caregivers need to be party animals. People’s social needs and preferences differ, and social interactions can take place in many ways.
If you go for a walk, take the dog to the park or go to the shop to pick up groceries, you will probably meet people you know along the way. Or you can exchange a few words with strangers (this is especially the case if you have a dog with you!).
When you are out and about with a person who has Alzheimer’s disease, always try to be sure that they are comfortable and enjoying the outing. People with Alzheimer’s may feel more comfortable in quieter environments, so busy streets or shopping centers with loud music may not be ideal.
Activities can help to boost social connections, too. Art classes, choirs and playing or supporting sports are examples of enjoyable and fulfilling social pursuits. Try to keep them going if Alzheimer’s is in your life.
At home, visitors can offer an important source of social interaction. You may find that people visit less often if someone with Alzheimer’s is in the house. Perhaps they think the person needs space, or they may be afraid of saying the wrong thing or reacting to the person with Alzheimer’s in a way that offends.
You may need to reassure friends and family that it is okay to come over and that you would enjoy their company. Try to be open with them about the situation, and try to include the person with Alzheimer’s in the visit and in the conversation if they are comfortable.
You may even find that Alzheimer’s opens the doors to new ways of socializing. Many areas have dedicated events for people with Alzheimer’s and for their caregivers and loved ones to get together. This can be a great way of building your social network with people who are having similar experiences to your own.
Finally, if you know a person or family living with Alzheimer’s disease, see how you can help keep that social connection going. Make a call to catch up, or drop in for a cup of tea. You never know how important that could be.