Dementia: Preventing social isolation

By Alzheimer's Auckland

Living with dementia can often be isolating.

Over time, the ability of a person with dementia to communicate may become worse and interactions that once seemed to come so easily may be more difficult, which can be frustrating for everyone involved.

It can be harder to find activities that everyone can enjoy and do at the same pace.

Often this is necessary for a person living with dementia – they need someone to help them along or sit with them.

Chinese man with grandchildren

This can mean maintaining social bonds but also creating new ones which can be tricky and often they’ll come less naturally.

As a carer or family member living with someone with dementia, it doesn’t have to mean the end of being active and having fun.

This is still incredibly important but it’s more about trying to find the right activities to take part in and share.

Getting the right support can help make it all a bit easier too.

Keeping somebody with dementia active is valuable to their personal and emotional wellbeing.

In some cases, it can even help slow down the progression of the disease.

Simple Tips

Here are a few tips to consider when planning activities with your friend or family member:

Consider the setting

Try to avoid big crowds or places with constant movement and lots of noise. 

These can make people with dementia feel nervous, unsure, and even upset.

Make sure there is a good balance between calm and stimulation.

This way they can actually engage and won’t feel bored or want to give up.

Think about the person’s interests

Perhaps there was a special activity they liked doing - art, music or walking.

Engaging in things they used to like doing can bring joy to people living with dementia.

It can help them feel happy doing something familiar.  Who knows, it may even bring back a memory or two!

If they love reading, writing or crafts, try tying those into your plans.

Take books to the park to read or join an art class with other people their age.

Paintbrush hits canvas

Make them feel useful

Activities that reinforce past roles and achieve something physically can have a positive impact.

Think about tasks such as hanging out or folding the washing.

These kinds of activities can help people feel a sense of achievement and encourage family bonds.

No need to rush

Take your time; the end goal doesn’t always have to be completing the activity or finishing something.

It can be the simple enjoyment of the in-between that matters just as much.

Putting pressure on can make people feel unsure and stop them from wanting to try things.

Overstimulation can have the same effect – take it slow and try to find a good balance.

Still the same person

Always remember, everyone living with dementia is still the same person you once knew despite the changes in their memory and behaviour.

Actively finding activities that they relate to can help make every day more fulfilling and enjoyable, whether it’s obvious at first or not.

If you’re struggling to come up with fresh ideas for activities and fun, look to your community.

There are plenty of organisations offering free services to help those living with dementia.

Amongst them is Alzheimers Auckland, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to providing dementia support and socialisation services to help people with dementia live well.

Hundreds of people a year make use of their services, which are free, run in a variety of locations and available to anyone living with dementia.

Weekly activity groups help people living with dementia remain engaged in meaningful social activities.

These include walking groups, art-making, coffee meet-ups, Zumba and men’s fitness groups.

Carers and family members are also welcome to attend, whether as a support person or as an activity couples and family members can enjoy together.

Quality of life is dependent on interaction and relationships with others, as well as feeling a part of a community.

While everything may be a little confusing inside, with the right opportunities to get involved and socialise, people living with dementia can continue to make the most of each moment.