Keep in touch: Mental health and social connections for memory care
Maintaining good social connections while a loved one is in memory care isn’t always easy. The challenge can lie in busy lives, hurt feelings, grief or a thousand other sources. Staying involved and in touch is worth the effort, though.
Not only are social connections key to the mental health of those with dementia, they can help to soothe anxieties in those who love them. Social networks can encompass a wide range of people, including professional caregivers, people with memory loss and their family and friends. By working together with creativity and compassion, everyone can find far greater peace of mind.
Easier than ever to keep in touch
With the outbreak of COVID-19, visiting a loved one in memory care has been heavily restricted. This loss of in-person time has been a painful sacrifice for many family and friends. At the same time, it has also driven innovation, as people search for different ways to keep close. A few easy options include:
- Write a letter. This old school method is a wonderful way to stay engaged with your loved one. Not only are the personal words comforting and uplifting, the familiarity of your handwriting and the tactile experience of the mail itself can be therapeutic. It’s also good for the letter writer — writing expressively by hand has been shown to relieve stress, help with depression and generally improve one’s cognitive ability.
- Keep calling. Phone calls on a regular schedule can give your loved one something to look forward to. Having things to be excited about is an ideal way to help a person stay engaged and happy.
- Visit virtually. With a little help from care staff, it’s become quite easy to set up a video chat with someone in memory care. Video calls can be extra beneficial for someone with dementia, thanks to their multi-sensory nature.
Another benefit of all these remote options: They are easier for people who have found it difficult to keep in contact in the past. Remember that the most important thing when your loved one is in memory care is staying involved. Feeling overcome with guilt for not visiting enough can keep some people from reaching out at all. Be compassionate with yourself, and look for ways of staying in touch that work for your situation.
Finding support through social connections
Your care, affection and reassurance has tremendous positive mental health effects for your loved one in memory care. It may also help to soothe your own anxieties about how your loved one is doing. However, it may instead leave you feeling stressed, drained and depressed.
Understand that it is common to have sad, frustrated and even angry feelings when supporting a loved one with dementia. You have nothing to feel ashamed about. Alzheimer’s disease and other memory disorders are difficult diagnoses to live with, and you also deserve compassion and support. The key is to find people who understand what you are experiencing.
Arthur’s Care Homes have always viewed supporting the families of clients as an essential component of supporting clients themselves. Staff strive to go above and beyond in providing reassurance and up-to-date information about the daily lives of loved ones.
Another resource that Arthur’s Care Homes are proud to provide is Arthur’s Memory Café. The café is a place to spend time with other caregivers and individuals with memory loss. Topics that are difficult to bring up elsewhere can be discussed without embarrassment, in the company of peers who are going through similar experiences.
We are social creatures
We all need social connections to live well. Time spent with loved ones and supportive peers is not only fun, but healing. However you choose to connect — letters, emails, video calls or window visits — both you and your loved one will benefit.
Arthur’s Memory Café has gone virtual with Zoom during the pandemic! Please contact our facilitator at email@example.com if you’d like to register to join.