By Twila Doucet
Long Term Care Authority
Seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease 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.
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 senior for a walk around the neighborhood, help them grow plants in the backyard, or explore a quiet nature trail or wildlife preserve together.
Art therapy is thought to slow the pace of cognitive decline and reduce anxiety, depression, anger or sadness. 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 loved one’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.
Even if your loved one doesn’t always remember each person in the family, it can be a source of comfort when they reach out and connect. COVID-19 precautions might reduce the amount of physical interaction your loved one can safely have with others, but if you enlist family and friends to chat regularly with them, it can reduce feelings of isolation.
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 loved one’s outlook, behavior, and emotional regulation.
LTCA of Enid Area Agency on Aging can help you find resources that may be helpful to you. Doucet is caregiver coordinator at LTCA of Enid AAA. She can be contacted at (580) 234-7475 or firstname.lastname@example.org.