“I don’t know what to say. I would like to help, but I just feel so uncomfortable around them now.” These are the words of friends when faced with a member of their circle who has received a cancer diagnosis.
This same monologue is being reported by individuals living with dementia. Whether it is the individual themselves, their spouses, even their children---there is an overall drop-off of friends once the diagnosis is made known. The research refers to this phenomenon as stigma. Feelings of isolation and loneliness are compounded by the limitations that often come with the dementia diagnosis. The stigma of dementia has been validated and continues to be prevalent in dementia research. But it only takes talking to a caregiver to hear the experience reiterated. People that were once close, fade to the background. The telephone quits ringing, the invitations cease and the few social events attended are more difficult due to changes in the individual with dementia’s cognition.
Isolation and loneliness are compounded at the time that caregivers need the most help and support. Research shows that caregiver stress is mediated by social support. Research also shows that socialization is vital to the individual with dementia. Having a place where individuals with dementia can succeed socially and engage cognitively serves to slow cognitive decline.
It is for this reason that Arden Courts hosts support groups, seminars, and Memory Café events for people living with dementia. These events give those living with dementia a network of others who are experiencing much of the same social isolation and life changes due to dementia. Attending adult day while a caregiver goes to a seminar or attending Memory Café events together allow the individual with dementia to relax and engage.
Call your local Arden Courts and ask to be connected with their network of dementia support.
By-line: Cate McCarty, PhD, ADC has been collaborating with Arden Courts in a variety of roles since the late 90’s. Her background in nursing, activities and admissions has given her a passionate commitment to quality of life for the individual and family with dementia.
Aihara, Y., Kato, H., Sugiyama, T., Ishi, K., Goto, Y. (2016). Public attitudes towards people living with dementia: A cross-sectional study in urban Japan (innovative practice), Dementia, Dec. 2. pii: 1471301216682118. [Epub ahead of print].
Stites, S. D., Johnson, R., Harkins, K., Sankar, P., Xie, D., Karlawish, J. (2016). Identifiable characteristics and potentially malleable beliefs predict stigmatizing attributions toward person with Alzheimer’s disease dementia: Results of a survey of the U.S. general public, Health Communications, 29:1-10.