A friend of mine was frustrated. Her Mother is in the early stages of dementia, and although she is one of four siblings, the weight of decisions regarding her Mother’s care falls to her.
After an extensive search, she and her husband found an acceptable care home that had an opening in the city where they live.
My friend is able to visit her Mother a few times a week. She was pleased with the level of care they provided, which included a wide variety of activities. Her Mother regularly enjoyed strolling through the garden area and sitting on the shady benches while visiting with friends among the beautiful flowers. All seemed well as her mother settled into the routines at her new home.
Then one day my friend received a call from the director of the facility. He informed her that a decision had been made to move her mother to a different house within the complex. The care home campus consists of three homes, with each one housing residents of similar abilities. She and her husband were a bit uncertain about this move since they had been quite happy with the previous arrangements and were concerned that this change could be detrimental to her mental well-being. He stated that she would be given a thirty-day notice if they did not go along with the move. Due to the lack of options, they agreed to this unsettling change.
As feared, her mother’s condition worsened after the move. The residents in the new home were much less active – or talkative. Before long her mother began to settle into a more sedentary lifestyle as well. It was at this point where my friend was sharing her frustrations with me. She was concerned that her visits would not be enough to counteract the effects of her Mother’s new living situation.
Shortly after our visit, I came across a wonderful study published in “Neurology Advisor” that found that just one hour a week of social interaction improved patients’ quality of life and eased their agitation. The study included more than 800 dementia patients living in 69 nursing homes in the United Kingdom.
The key word here is ‘social interaction’. As long as there is any willingness or ability for a loved one to be actively involved in the visit there seems to be a measure of benefit. Some examples of active involvement include conversations, singing together, playing cards, board games, or bingo.
Try to discover what activities your loved one might enjoy doing, (although this may change over time). I would encourage you to venture out when you can. Help your loved one go to their place of worship, attend concerts, browse art galleries, feed ducks at the park, or visit a zoo.
Do whatever your loved one enjoyed prior to the onset of dementia and even add a few activities whenever possible. When it comes to food, help your loved one share a meal with others, whether it’s at a restaurant, with family, or in the dining room of the care home.
The best part of this study is that it shows what only one hour of ‘social interaction’ can do to improve quality of life, additional time spent may help even more.
An additional benefit may be the discovery that the increased ‘quality of life’ and ‘sense of connection’ may flow both ways.