This is a common topic of discussion in my world. Families begin to feel isolated as their friends slowly disappear from their social circle. Friends don’t know what to do or say as they watch a beloved companion change.
For starters, decide who you want to be and how you want to fit into the mix. I offer that bluntly because I’ve witnessed the pain shared by friends who’ve allowed themselves to slowly fade away. Express your intentions to the family. Ask what they need. Outline specific ways you are willing to help and make it happen. Most people aren’t comfortable asking for help even when it’s offered, so be there.
Maintain as much of your routine with your friend as possible, adapting as needed. Social activity is essential for both care partners. Connecting as you did prior to a diagnosis provides a much-needed sense of normalcy. Gentle reminder – if someone is living in the past, it’s not our job to clue them into our reality. Join theirs! They are still an adult with feelings, intelligence and a history. Validation from you provides both emotional support and confidence.
Engagement prevents people from withdrawing. We all need purpose and to feel loved and needed. Whether your routine is weekly or monthly, be consistent. Whether participating in an activity or an outing, switch it up. Change venues when possible, giving care partners time to be at home and away.
Phone conversations may become repetitive but if that’s been your typical communication, don’t just stop – adjust. Bring a visual component to the mix. We take in communication better visually, especially when our processing speed slows down. Using Facetime/Skype provides eye contact. Smile. There’s no better form of nonverbal communication. Consistent snail-mail across miles is also a wonderful treat. Add pictures, new and old to support letter content.
If you’re worried about what to do or how to do it, take the leap and just do something! After all, it could be you.
Elaine Poker-Yount, CDP, Aging & Dementia Care Specialist
Reach her at 480-203-8548 or email@example.com