Updated: May 4
At one time or another, everyone has reason to feel isolated within their surroundings. Sometimes, people purposely isolate themselves to get the quiet time they need to focus and concentrate. Other times it is the circumstance, such as being the caregiver for a loved one, that causes isolation.
People who seek isolation usually do not feel lonely. However, involuntary isolation can make people feel entrapped and very, very lonely.
Feelings of loneliness can occur with or without the presence of other people. Parties and other social events can be lonely if the need for interaction and inclusion is not met. At the most basic level, loneliness is missing cues that remind us of who we are.
There are many things caregivers can do to lessen their feelings of isolation and loneliness. First, self-reflection. Frequently, the family caregiver, believing he or she is the only one who can give their loved one the proper care, seems unable to accept offers of help from family members, friends, community, or faith-based organizations.
When help is accepted, regularly scheduled getaways, hours or days long, can give caregivers the respite they need to relax, reconnect with friends, or participate in a favorite activity.
People living with Dementia also experience isolation and loneliness. Friends and family may disappear, and with their disappearance, there are even fewer opportunities for socializing. Eventually, as the condition progresses, isolation and loneliness become inevitable.
For those in the early stages of dementia, living life to its fullness - saying yes to life more than no - can help them cope with the emotions that come with their diagnosis. Join your loved one on their “I’ve always wanted to visit or do" lists. Do silly things together, and encourage activities that preserve family history.
It is equally important to give your loved one the pleasure and challenge of arranging activities and extending invitations to family and friends. Doing so becomes a declaration of “I am still here.”
With symptom progression, efforts to reduce isolation and feelings of loneliness require help from family, friends, and professional caregivers. Visits to their home or assisted living community or conversations by phone or video can help your loved one recall the roles he or she played within the extended family and community.
Other ways include encouraging your loved ones to leave the confines of their room and spend time where people congregate in common-use areas. Interactions with babies, children, pets, and therapy animals may also reduce feelings of lonesomeness.
Finally, opportunities for self-expression can help people living with Dementia to feel less isolated and alone. There are many simple ways that range from arts, crafts, and music activities to writing poetry and visiting a nearby nature preserve, to connect people who have Dementia to their authentic or most essential self.
Content Contributor: Janet Yagoda Shagam, Ph.D., is a freelance medical and science writer and the author of "An Unintended Journey: A Caregiver's Guide to Dementia.", available through Amazon. Please visit our Author's page to learn more and find this title. (Content modified by K. Ogden, team member Dementia Society of America)
The opinions expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily the opinions of the Dementia Society, Inc. We do not endorse nor guarantee products, comments, suggestions, links, or other forms of the content contained within blog posts that have been provided to us with permission, or otherwise. Dementia Society does not provide medical advice. Please consult your doctor. www.DementiaSociety.org