Living in a world of isolation can be a harmful place to dwell. Unfortunately, when dealing with Alzheimer’s or other dementia-related diseases, dissociation almost becomes a symptom for patients and their caregivers.
Many patients sequester themselves away due to embarrassment. They go to great measures not to feel or look foolish in front of others, choosing instead to stay in the safety of their home.
Have you noticed a neighbor’s car sitting idle more than usual? This could possibly be an early warning sign of some type of dementia or even depression.
Isolation alone can cause depression or vice versa. But let’s be clear: Depression can cause dementia!
The general public has yet to learn about all the diseases that can cause memory-impairment. Some of us go through life with blinders on, never embracing a problem that doesn’t strike us directly. The sooner we, as a society, comprehend the fact that cognitive impairment is practically standing on every other street corner, the sooner we can begin helping the ones facing this dilemma in our communities.
A man named Norm McNamara, residing in picturesque Torquay, England, has been working to create a dementia-awareness campaign in his community. He is encouraging local businesses to pledge that their shops and restaurants will be “dementia friendly.” This is the direction we all should be heading in.
McNamara, who has himself been stricken with “Lewy Body Dementia,” has already garnered hundreds of signatures of businesspeople who have agreed to join what is now known as the Torbay Dementia Action Alliance.
Caregivers everywhere will experience a succinct decline in what was once their social life. Through my own school of hard knocks, I can tell you that my telephone practically stopped ringing altogether.
The average person has never experienced the 24/7 hardships of caregiving, so naturally they have no conception of the amount of sacrifices that truly must be made.
While taking care of loved ones we simply keep telling ourselves that our old friends are just “on hold.” Well, now that I have just closed in on three year’s time since my father’s passing I have discovered that only the most sincere and faithful friendships have survived.
As I stated earlier, social isolation is a high-risk factor for developing dementia. This is just one of the reasons for you to remain as socially active as possible while being a caregiver. Whether it’s through internet chat rooms, staying in touch with friends on Facebook, phone calls or even the old-fashioned U.S. Mail, it is vital to have some form of communication with the outside world.
Learn to cherish the friends that lend you an ear, even if it’s only for a couple of minutes. Keep an open mind to the unforeseen new friendships you may encounter. There is something special about socializing with a peer that is in the same boat as you. Try not to worry about the friends that have slowly slipped away. This demanding journey of caregiving may guide your life into a totally different direction anyway.
There are many positive sides to caregiving, and the support and love from new friends is one of them.
Gary Joseph LeBlanc was the primary caregiver of his father for a decade after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His newly released book, “While I Still Can,” and the expanded edition of “Staying Afloat in a Sea of Forgetfulness” can be found at whileistillcanbook.com, stayingafloatbook.com, Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
Citation: LeBlanc, Gary. “Alzheimer’s Isolation Hurts Patient, Caregiver.” The Tampa Times. http://www2.hernandotoday.com/lifestyles/health-4-you/2012/aug/02/hbnewso3-alzheimers-isolation-hurts-patient-caregi-ar-449840/