As we age, participating in social activities can become more demanding and stressful. When dementia is added into the mix, it can become even more challenging. Ideally, we want to be able to include our loved ones in family gatherings for as long as possible. Those with dementia often still enjoy being social, and the joy of attending the event will persist even after the visit is forgotten.
Dementia can affect behaviour and personality, but there are ways we can continue to accommodate these changes. Here are three recommended tips for including your loved ones with dementia in social gatherings.
As a caregiver, you can help your family members understand how to interact with your loved one with dementia. Many family members worry about the situation but may be unaware of how to talk to someone with dementia. Here are some things you can let your family know in advance:
You can stay close to your loved one and help facilitate conversations with family members. Your loved one may become confused or agitated with people coming and going; remaining by their side will allow them to have a constant, reassuring presence.
Scheduling the gathering at a time of day that is best for your loved one is highly recommended. Many people with dementia experience sundowning, which makes it difficult to relax or interrelate as the sun goes down. Gatherings in the morning and early afternoon tend to work better.
Keeping the gathering small is also suggested. Small groups make it easier on your loved one, as noisy situations and competing conversations can be confusing or frustrating. If it is not possible to keep the gathering small, arrange an area that will be safe and comfortable for your loved one to hang out. Most people with dementia can’t tolerate stimulation for long periods, so plan to stay for only an hour or two.
Even with your best efforts, your loved one may end up experiencing anxiety. It could be because of the new environment or because of certain people or conversations. We can’t control these things, but we are able to respond quickly.
As the disease progresses, you may want to consider having a personal caregiver join you. Including a loved one in family gatherings for as long as possible is beneficial to their overall health. A care provider can help with taking care of personal needs, helping the person eat, and can be wonderful at keeping conversations in a place of comfort for your loved one. Their calming presence can allow you to mingle without guilt, and if there are any challenges with anxiety or agitation, the care provider can let you know.
It is important to try to include our loved ones, even if it doesn’t work out every time. Those with dementia deserve to have enjoyable experiences, and the feelings of warmth and love will remain even once the event is past.