For people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, socialization can be a challenge. Some experience increased anxiety, making them uncomfortable about interacting with others. Many feel self-conscious about their memory loss, or struggle with language—which makes social gatherings intimidating. Scheduling social activities can also be difficult for caregivers, who may not be sure of the best way to find a safe and supportive social environment for their loved one.
“Dementia can cause someone who used to love spending time with friends to become more of an introvert,” says Andrea Korsunsky, Director of Seniors At Home’s Center for Dementia Care. “This is very common, and can be challenging for the person with dementia as well as their friends and family, who understandably struggle with this change in their loved one’s personality.”
But social connection is a basic human need, and it’s important for families or care partners of people with dementia to find comfortable ways for them to continue gathering with others. Socializing helps people living with dementia in tangible ways, both physical and emotional:
Supporting brain health
The brain is a muscle that needs to be exercised, just like the other muscles in our bodies. Engaging with other people helps keep the brain active, maintain memory, and manage emotions. Socialization has even been shown to slow the progress of cognitive impairment in some cases.
Helping maintain focus
People with dementia often feel confused about where they are and what time period they’re in, which is unsettling. Socialization can provide an anchor to the here and now, providing a reassuring sense of groundedness that makes it easier to complete everyday tasks.
Creating a feeling of inclusion
Humans are social creatures; we depend on relationships for stimulation and survival. Loneliness and isolation are associated with an increased risk of depression and anxiety, while feeling connected to others is associated with a higher quality of life.
For some families or care partners, finding comfortable opportunities for their loved one with dementia to socialize can be tricky. Read Andrea’s tips to help with social planning >>
It is also helpful to seek out organizations or events that are specifically designed for people with dementia. Seniors At Home’s Memory Café provides an opportunity for people living with dementia, along with their care partners, to gather with others twice a week. Memory Café offers activities like bocce, art, music therapy, and cultural outings that are stimulating and supportive for both the person with dementia and the person providing them care.
Connecting with others can’t make all the challenges of dementia go away, but it will provide support and stimulation at a time when it’s most needed.
Seniors At Home is here to help. If you or someone you care about needs assistance, please reach out to us at 415-529-5981 or contact us online. Seeking support and understanding helps us—and our loved ones—enjoy a higher quality of life and make the most of our time together.
Seniors At Home is a division of Jewish Family and Children’s Services, a trusted nonprofit institution that has been providing care since 1850. Our services are funded by fees and by donations for those who cannot afford the full cost of care for these critical services.