Given that nearly 6 million Americans suffer from dementia, it’s no wonder that we’re devoting so much energy to finding ways to help with it.
While we don’t fully understand the ramifications of the illness, we know the ways that we can help patients with dementia improve their lives. One of the most important ways to do so is by giving them a more robust and rewarding social life.
Here are four reasons why socialization matters for people with dementia.
1. Emotional Connections
It doesn’t take much to stimulate our brains and anything that stimulates us in new ways is powerful for helping with dementia.
Interacting with new people helps to spark new connections that could be easily reinforced with positive feelings. When we talk to someone who makes us feel good, we get to associate positive emotions with that new information.
With those two things working together, memories creates are much more powerful and potentially permanent.
Socializing with old friends is important for firing and refreshing synapses that have been in the brain for a while. When we meet with someone who we know and already care about, we get the chance to connect a lot of positive memories together.
Again, this mixture of emotions and memories is a great way to help exercise our brain when dementia threatens our precious memories.
It’s also good to help people with dementia feel a sense of belonging.
This emotional feeling allows for building self-worth in people dealing with dementia. Dementia is an isolating and painful disease, so if you or a loved one is dealing with it, it’s important to keep people from being isolated.
Strengthening social circles helps to preserve self-worth.
2. Improving our Brain Health
The more opportunities that you take to socialize and experience new things, the more you can get in the way of dementia progressing. When our brains are stimulated by more new ex[perieneces, it even decreases our chances of getting dementia.
If the process has started, these connections get in the way of the dementia process.
It’s the ideas, feelings, and thoughts we repress that trouble us the most with dementia. When we don’t have anyone to talk about our troubles with, we’re more likely to struggle with them. As dementia is isolating and we sit alone reinscribing those negative thoughts, quietly, on our own, all that we have left are negative thoughts
When you talk to someone, you use a different set of processes that you do for thinking. You exercise your knowledge, your emotional perception, and the way you see the world around you.
Performing this complex function as often as possible keeps your brain working like it’s hitting the gym on a regular basis.
You need so many decisionmaking skills and to make so many judgments on the fly when you’re in the middle of a conversation. Being able to perform this task as often as possible is vital for people with dementia.
Rather than losing a sense of emotion and feeling that often comes with dementia, patients retain it by staying social.
3. Loneliness is a Problem
Since dementia hits seniors the hardest, it falls on top of all of the other ways that seniors tend to feel isolated.
More than six million people over the age of 65 reports dealing with depression as a persistent problem. One of the reasons is illness but a related issue is the isolation that follows behind it.
Socialization provides a structure in the lives of people with dementia. This is a vital element of keeping elders emotionally healthy. With all of the stigmas that follow dementia, that can drive people away and keep them from connecting at the level they should.
People who are persistently lonely are more likely to report a lower level of satisfaction with life. This negative thinking can cause the first sign of dementia to grow out of control. There’s no reason for elders to be alone with all of the family, community, and home care services available.
If a senior isn’t in a space that offers options for socialization that fit the interests of the person with dementia, you should find a new place for them.
It’s vital that they have access to do the things they love while they age with dignity. No one should have to be alone because of or alongside an illness like dementia.
4. It Eliminates Anxiety and Depression
Living in a situation where there’s a lot to occupy a senior’s time and energy means that there’s little time for anxiety and depression. People with dementia need to remain productive and working on things to feel like they’re a part of the world that’s zipping past. When they play a role in the lives of the people around them, they’re less likely to feel anxious.
Just some time devoted to a phone call with a friend helps to keep anxiety under control. When their minds are stimulated with the things in front of them or with the conversation ahead, the potential for depression is quelled.
Getting together with friends and neighbors to put together a jigsaw puzzle can have a profound impact on how people feel. When they keep their mind on the positive feelings they’re having while socializing, it’s hard to imagine that they have time for negative thoughts.
You can’t eliminate how someone with dementia is going to react to their own struggle with the disease, but you can help by giving something positive.
Patients With Dementia Need A Social Life
While patients with dementia struggle to communicate at times, it’s important to not let that lead to isolation. We all need to be around people who know us and who care about us, even if we struggle to remember them and communicate with them.
If your loved one with dementia is struggling to eat, check out our guide for more information.