The Journey that caregivers are on when caring for someone with Alzheimer’s/Dementia is full of mystery, self-doubt, and loneliness. This column will offer a chance for you to learn about you, explore the HIPPIE side of yourself and encourage you to always TRY SOMETHING NEW.
By Phyllis DeLaricheliere, MS
No one likes to be alone all the time. I’m not questioning that peace is not bliss, but isolation is not good for our health. As a matter of fact, by nature we are social beings. Elizabeth Bemis, MA, author of “The Importance of Socialization at Senior Living Communities,” states that “human nature leads us to crave fulfilling relationships with other people.” However, some circumstances of life may lead to isolation and finding ourselves alone.
Loneliness can lead to depression and anxiety; two negative impacts on our physiological health and wellbeing. As our country’s population continues to grow, by default, we are seeing and will continue to observe changes in our economy and social shifts within our society. The majority of our current group of seniors grew up, got married and have been living in the same house in the same area for 40 to 50 years. This means that over this time, their neighborhood have changed and evolved. However, for some of them, – life stands still. Since we are all living longer and healthier lives, this growing group of seniors are witnessing more friends passing away, including family, and their children. Many find that their nucleus, their inner sanctuary, dissolves, and isolation sets in.
As important as it is for children to have positive interactions and social engagements, it holds the same critical weight for seniors. With social supports and experiences, research shows a reduction in stress, increased physical health, and a substantial decrease in psychological issues such as depression and anxiety.
Here is the best part! Talk is cheap! It costs nothing. It can be as simple as saying hello to someone and asking how their day is going. By initiating a social interaction, we are feeding our self-awareness and creating for ourselves positive feelings. We need to stay connected with other human beings. This also stands true when dealing with a loved one with dementia. Caregivers might find themselves starved for conversation if their loved one no longer speaks. What can you do? Remember caregivers, you must place the oxygen on yourself first before you can help others. In other words, get out there and talk to someone. Find a support group, or go out with a friend. Make the time like you were making an appointment at the doctors. It’s just as important!! Now you are getting oxygen, you are strong enough to help your loved one on their journey with dementia. Even if they have lost the ability to speak or no longer understand your words, they can still find fulfillment. Like a newborn that recognizes their mother’s voice, the sound of your voice will bring them comfort. It will feel familiar. And the topic of conversation truly does not carry as much weight. Because having the connection with them and giving your loved one the dignity and respect they deserve will bring the same health benefits and alleviate some of the depression and isolation dementia can bring.
So get chatting! We have so many ways to communicate now, there really is no reason why you can’t reach out and talk to someone. The power of human connection is strong medicine. And it doesn’t need a prescription, insurance doesn’t need to approve it, and the benefits far outweigh the risk.
About the Author
Phyllis A. DeLaricheliere, MS is a Project Manager for the new 55+ Independent Living Community Fairing Way @ Union Point located in South Weymouth, MA. She has made a career working with seniors in finding them housing for over 20 years. She is a sought after speaker/educator and is getting ready to publish her book: “Embracing the Journey: Knowing your Inner Hippie”. To book her for a lecture or get on her pre-published waitlist for her book, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Interested in making Fairing Way your new home call her at 781-660-5000 or email@example.com. WWW.fairingway.org