Humans are social creatures, especially when it comes to our health (both physical and mental) and our sense of well-being. Studies have shown that people with good personal equations are less likely to have health problems, not to mention, they live longer and happier lives. Of course, Alzheimer’s and other dementias affect social life. Seniors with dementia are at an increased risk of social isolation and depression if they don’t have the support of their loved ones (family and friends). It’s natural for individuals suffering from dementia to grow distant from their loved ones, as when they notice they’re more confused and don’t remember the things they used to, they find staying in their house to be safe and start to go out and socialize less and less, which shouldn’t be the case.
Research has shown that regular engagement in social interactions and activities help in maintaining healthy cognitive functions. Social interaction can be challenging for people suffering from dementia due to behavioral changes, losses in self-esteem, and an increased sense of anxiety, yet its importance in providing significant benefit remains the same. Experts encourage social interaction for dementia patients for reasons aplenty, including:
Social interaction supports brain health– Social interaction can help the brain stay active and functioning efficiently, in the same way like physical exercise that helps people maintain their muscle and bone mass. This can be attributed to the fact that individuals with a strong social network generally retain more memories than those who are more isolated. Furthermore, loneliness has been linked to cognitive decline, and one recent study found that people who socialize more have a lower chance of developing memory-loss symptoms, which can be attributed to the influence that larger social circles have on the comprehension and reasoning ability of seniors battling dementia.
When older adults interact with their loved ones, they have to think of ways to converse and respond, which stimulates the brain cells and the formation of brain synapses, thus encouraging the creation of new nerve cells and slowing the progression of cognitive impairment. Mental stimulation can have physical benefits, too, such as it has the potential to lower blood pressure and lower the risk of cardiovascular problems and various forms of arthritis. This is mainly because social engagement allows a person to be more physically active and they are more likely to maintain a nutritious diet, and also helps to reduce stress and anxiety. Activities that you can encourage your loved one to indulge in include music therapy, trivia & games, current events discussions, arts & crafts, etc. Then there are group activities like exercising, walking, and playing games that presents with social interaction opportunities.
Encourage your senior loved one to take part in social activities, which can be a valuable source of social connection for your elder, which will make him/her feel loved and cared for.
Social interaction improves the overall quality of life– Dementia affects an individual’s quality of life, causing him/her to feel isolated, agitated, frustrated, depressed, and embarrassed, and not being able to perform daily tasks and remembering simple things, in turn, can affect his/her emotional well-being. Social interaction can significantly improve the quality of life of patients with dementia, ease their frustration and confusion, and reduce overall healthcare costs (fewer cases of hospitalization due to fractures, urinary tract or chest infections- often the case with dementia patients).
Talking about the psychological benefits, seniors who actively engage with others tend to have a positive outlook as they have someone they can confide in, which can significantly reduce the risk of psychological disorders (stress, depression, anxiety, and mood disorders) and improve sleep quality.
Social support helps maintain independence– Not only depression, social isolation and loneliness often leads to a range of other mental health issues like anxiety and stress that increase the amount of extra support older adults need, which is mainly due to not being able to express their feelings and emotions to others, which is what further alienates them from family and friends. Being surrounded by friends and individuals to listen to their frustrations and offer solutions can be extremely comforting for seniors with dementia, which fosters their independence as their self-confidence increases that comes with the feeling of security that they have a support system who’ll always look out for them and assist them when required.
It is a good idea for someone experiencing memory loss to move to a memory care community where they will have the full-time support of a caregiver and the opportunity to take part in a variety of events and social gatherings on a regular basis.
The benefits of social interactions cannot be emphasized enough, even for people who do not have dementia, as they age, social interactions can be beneficial in staving off cognitive decline. It’s time you encouraged your seniors suffering from dementia to engage in activities that will build and strengthen his/her social circle, enabling him/her to live a fulfilling life.
At Senior Sanctuary of Anthem in Phoenix, we understand the critical importance of socialization for dementia care. Our highly skilled and compassionate caregivers work diligently to help combat the devastating effects of dementia by engaging with our residents through socialization, brain fitness exercises, memory games and other activities.