After being on lockdown, everyone wants to get out, visit family, and enjoy summer events. Social interaction is healthy for both caregivers (who often feel isolated) and for persons living with dementia. Here are some tips for making these events enjoyable for persons with dementia and their carers!
Yes, I know everyone wants to rip off the masks and burn them in a giant bonfire. If you and your loved one have been vaccinated and do not have any other health issues per the CDC, yes you can safely attend without wearing masks. If not vaccinated, please wear a mask and maintain social distancing.
If you are hosting an event and you know some of your friends or family members (who are also caregivers) are attending, here are some ways you can help them enjoy themselves.
Ask a mutual friend/family member to be the “point” person. In this case, the point person stays with or near the person living with dementia so that the caregiver can have a break. If the person living with dementia is independent but may get a little overwhelmed in social situations, the point person can “hang out” with the person and offer assistance as needed. Sometimes, even individuals who are doing well, may start to show anxiety or repeat themselves more frequently when in a social situation. The point person interacts calmly, offers to go with them to the buffet, or steers them to less crowded areas. Here is a great way to get someone with dementia to head to a calmer (and quieter) area: “I’m having trouble hearing with all of the people talking. Would you be OK with us going to a quieter spot?”
If the person living with dementia requires more supervision, the point person can offer to remain with the person living with dementia while the caregiver gets something to eat or drink. Sometimes, the person living with dementia “shadows” the caregiver and won’t let them out of their sight. The point person can bring the goodies over to the caregiver and family member.
If you are a caregiver, you can also reach out to someone who will be attending the event and ask them for help. People are always saying, “Please let me know how I can help.” People REALLY do want to help, but often do not know how. They appreciate direction!!
Everyone has their “schedule.” Some people (like me) are up at 4 am and asleep by 9 pm. Others are the polar opposite. Carers should not feel bound to attend an event from beginning to end–unless it works for both them and their family member with dementia! Let’s say you are invited to a 4th of July barbecue on Sunday from 1pm to 6 pm. Your family member tends to get anxious and “sundown” around 3 pm. Let the host know your crew will be arriving at 1 pm but may need to leave at 2:30 pm, because that is the limit for your loved one. However, you can also let the host know you will “play it be ear” and stay longer if your family member is enjoying themselves!
Everyone will be excited to see family and friends who they haven’t seen in person for the past 16 months! You can help out the person living with dementia by introducing everyone…especially family members who the person living with dementia does not see regularly. It’s sad, but grandchildren who visit twice a year are more at risk for “being forgotten” than the grandchildren who pop by nearly every day. Facetime and other virtual interactions are good; there does come a time in the severe stage where even virtual interactions may not help with recognizing family members.
Stay tuned for Make Dementia Your B podcasts next month! I am also doing monthly FB lives in the private MDYB group. Join the group for access to free FB Live sessions and access to upcoming great offers!
Reading blogs are great, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to get answers to YOUR questions? Get help with YOUR challenges? Care-giving coaching sessions are back for a limited time. Book your sessions now!
Dr. Rita Jablonski
Rita Jablonski, PhD, CRNP, FAAN, FGSA is a nurse practitioner, researcher, tenured professor, and former family caregiver. Her research and practice involve all aspects of dementia management; she is best known for non-drug strategies to address dementia-related behaviors.