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Navigating Social Gatherings with Someone Suffering from Dementia Pt 1

Navigating Social Gatherings with Someone Suffering from Dementia Pt 1

As someone caring for a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, you’ve probably found that getting through social gatherings, particularly holidays and other events with multiple people in attendance, can be quite the challenge. Depending on how advanced your loved one is in the stage of their disease, social interaction can prove to be quite difficult. Here are some ways to help both you and your loved one have a more positive time to create a special moment -one that is stress-free and more meaningful for you, your loved one and anyone else present.

Friends, attendants, and family

In this first part, we are going to discuss ways to help you, the friends and family. The next part will discuss ways to help the person with Alzheimer’s or dementia have a great experience.

Slow the sensory and relational intake

Loud music, lots of noise, tons of flashing lights and a plethora of smells all mixed together are really NOT a good idea for involving your loved one. If you are going to plan and event with multiple people attending, keep the environment quieter and much more simple. Dark rooms are not a good idea for someone suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, as they’re already confused about their surroundings, especially if it is somewhere that they have not been on a recent and frequent basis. It would also be a good idea to play music that fosters improved mood and brain function, like classical pieces from Beethoven, Bach or Vivaldi. You’ll find that the temperament of not only your loved one but you and your other guests will be much more relaxed and can set the mood for a great event. Also, keep the personal interaction of your loved one to one or two people at a time. If multiple people are talking to your loved one at the same time, this can increase your loved one’s level of frustration and agitation. Should they become visibly agitated or withdrawn, it’s best to remove them and take them for a walk for a bit to calm them down and get them back to a place where they can spend the remainder of the event time in a better mood.

Communicate, communicate communicate, and always plan ahead.

Anytime you’re planning a get together with your loved one, make sure to contact anyone who might be attending and help set their expectations for your loved one’s current condition. Chances are they might have changed significantly in appearance or memory function since the last time they were together with your loved one. Letting friends and family know what to expect can avoid potentially awkward conversations and situations. Another tip that’s always good is to have everyone wear a name tag, as your loved one may not remember everyone’s name. When your loved one feels like they should recognize someone but can’t remember their name, that can quickly change the mood from happy to sad and frustrated. Also let friends and family know common, clear signs to look for when your loved one might become agitated and frustrated. Finally, have a backup plan, should you need to defuse any disruptive outbursts or unexpected behavior. It would probably very difficult on friends and family to see your loved one dealing with this disease, especially if they don’t know what to expect. Have them prepared their emotions for facing this disease in someone they have known to have looked and acted much different in the past.

Being the primary caregiver of someone suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia is a big and important job. At Woodhaven Village Senior Living, we are here to help you along the way.

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