Maintaining Relationships as Alzheimer's Progresses
One of the recommendations to stave off the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease is to stay connected to your chosen community. Unfortunately, when my parents moved back to West Texas due to Mom’s lung disease, she never really reestablished her network of friends to do things with, to talk with, and to share what was going on.
Mom had always loved to interact with people, either at the store she owned or through bridge games she hosted at the house. She also loved to travel and meet new people through new experiences. My mother still gets letters and cards from friends who she first met when she was in her 20s.
But few people who lived in close proximity were an integral part of her life as the disease began to take its course. After my parents moved back to West Texas in 2000, few of Mom’s friends made any effort to seek her out. And about the time Mom started having memory loss, she was limiting her social interactions. I’d ask her if she had seen some of the people who used to work with at her store; her reply was always no with the expressed reason that they all had lives and other interests. I would encourage her to invite them to a restaurant to have lunch, but she would always find a reason why that wouldn’t work.
Instead, Mom turned her need for interaction to shopping. She was always going to the local discount stores to see what the bargains were, but I also believe it was a way to get some human contact. Unfortunately, the contact that she was getting was not a deep relationship; instead, it was a momentary “May I help you?”
Mom also wanted to go to the senior citizens center, and mentioned that goal often. My father took her to the center once or twice, but then they never went again. And she never took the initiative to drive herself to the center.
Through these last few years, Mom would talk about wanting to start attending church again, take classes again, or volunteer for Meals on Wheels. But those ideas were all talk and no action. In fact, Mom’s world ended up shrinking to her bedroom, where she’d go regularly and close (and often lock) the door.
If you have someone who is suffering memory loss, encourage them not to get closed off from their friends and family. Arrange for them to spend time with people who bring them joy. I am not sure whether this effort will truly slow the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease, but it will make their life much more enjoyable.
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Published On: September 14, 2006