Maintaining friendships and community engagement for someone with dementia

A dementia diagnosis can often be isolating. Over time, a person’s ability to communicate may decrease and interactions that once came easy may become more difficult, which can be frustrating for everyone involved. It may become harder to find activities that everyone can enjoy together, at the same pace. As carers and people living with someone with dementia, being able to find the right strategies and support can be immensely rewarding and make it all a bit easier. Getting a person with dementia out and about and interacting with the community can be hugely valuable to their personal and emotional wellbeing, and may also slow down the onset of dementia.

When choosing activities to do together, try to avoid crowds, constant movement, and too much noise (as this may cause confusion and overstimulation). These needs should also be balanced with providing enough stimulation so as to avoid boredom. Simple, unhurried activities are best, and remember to take it in manageable steps – there’s no need to rush.

Activities that help establish old roles and allow the person to feel useful can also work wonders – maybe there are family traditions that the person has always participated in; perhaps if the person has always cooked for the family, preparing a meal together would be comforting and help foster family bonds.

When trying to think of ways for the person to engage with the family and the community, remember to take into account who they are as a unique individual – their lifestyle, their work history, their hobbies and recreation and social interests – who they are as a person is still there, and finding the right activities will help make every day more fulfilling and enjoyable.

Alzheimers Auckland is a not for profit organisation dedicated to providing dementia support and socialisation services to help people with dementia live well. Hundreds of people a year make use of their services, which are free, culturally appropriate, run in a variety of locations, and available to anyone living with dementia. Weekly social activity groups help people living with dementia remain engaged in social activities that are meaningful and interest-based. Activities include walking groups, art-making, coffee meet-ups, Zumba and men’s fitness groups. Carers and family members are also welcome to attend, whether as a support person or as a weekly activity that couples and family members can enjoy together.

Alzheimers Auckland’s socialisation services provide a supportive environment where people can feel safe around like-minded people and interact free of judgement, and they also give an opportunity for carers to have a break. They encourage people to create new social connections and have new experiences, all of which can help slow the progression of dementia by stimulating and challenging their mind and body. The groups show the benefit of a non-pharmacological intervention, as backed up by great international research.

With 15,000 people in the greater Auckland area living with dementia and a much wider network of family and friends who are in turn affected, at least two in three people will be touched by dementia in their lifetime. Everyone deserves to be supported and given time for themselves and a diagnosis for a loved one doesn’t mean it has to take over your whole life. Maintaining community engagement and getting support is part of taking care of you as well.

Quality of life is dependant on interaction and relationships with others and community engagement, in whatever form it takes is crucial to making the most of life. With the right care programmes, improved environments, and connection to people, people affected by dementia can continue to make the most of each moment.

If you would like more information on socialisation services available to you, visit the Alzheimers Auckland website.

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