Don’t give up the opportunity to seek out valuable social connections. Even after the brain has begun to deteriorate, seniors living with dementia still have an ever-present and deep-rooted desire to feel connected and secure. Socialization is the process of being socially engaged with other people, and this plays an essential role in each person’s wellbeing, especially for those with cognitive-related challenges.
As dementia progresses, the ability to communicate becomes hindered, raising a barrier between creating and sustaining meaningful relationships. We often like to think of the brain as a muscle: the more the brain is exercised through social engagement, the stronger it becomes; but, when the channel for interpersonal connection gets cut off, the brain becomes weakened, and the risk for adverse outcomes becomes greater.
According to an article in Daily Mail, having close social relationships and actively participating in group activities, such as volunteering and attending religious services, have been found to increase positive outcomes for those living with mild cognitive barriers. They also suggest that by increasing social activity by as little as one event per year, mental and emotional decline could be improved by up to 41 percent.
The reality is that loneliness and depression can quickly seep in when there is a lack of opportunity to build meaningful connections, but maintaining a good social life has been proven to substantially improve one’s quality of life.
In an article for LeadingAge, President and CEO of Oakwood Creative Care, Sherri Friend, stated how devastating the impacts of isolation at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic were for members of their day clubs:
“Our folks were so used to the routine of being able to come in and have purpose and meaning in their lives, they began declining pretty rapidly… two-thirds of [Oakwood’s] clients passed away during the time the clubs were closed, though only a handful died of COVID-19. Many of them were placed in nursing homes during that time.”
However, after reopening their clubs, Oakwood’s outcome measurements have shown that 65% of their members maintained or improved cognitive abilities within the first six months of joining, and 64% of members maintained or decreased depression.
Seniors living in nursing homes and other skilled facilities are at a significantly higher risk of depression due to feelings of isolation resulting from being placed in an environment away from their homes and families. Frequent yet regular opportunities for social engagement can decrease depression and improve other dementia-related behaviors, such as anxiety, agitation, and confusion, by offering a healthy distraction and a sense of routine.
During a 2019 study highlighting nursing home residents, seniors living with dementia were invited to discuss the importance of reciprocity and having a sense of security in their social interactions. Based on their responses, “These interviews serve as a reminder that although many cognitive abilities that are crucial to maintaining friendships, such as memory, conversational skills, and facial recognition, are diminished over time, those living with dementia still participate and benefit from meaningful relationships and in being part of communities.”
EngAGE EnCOURAGE™ offers an easy-to-use e-learning platform designed for care partners wishing to get people learning, laughing, and creating. This sort of engaging communication treats people with cognitive impairment as valued individuals and improves their quality of life.
EngAGE EnCOURAGE™ provides a quality curriculum for resident or member programming at assisted living communities, adult day clubs, and memory care providers. Reach us via email or toll-free by phone at (602) 418-5196.