The connection between loneliness and dementia is a very complex one. Recent research shows that individuals who are socially active and have a strong social network and support are less likely to develop symptoms of dementia. Additionally, once they begin experiencing cognitive decline, they might feel lonely and withdraw, which could increase the risk of developing dementia and depression.
A study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry by researchers from the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center found that social interaction or not having sufficient interactions with other individuals is linked to an increased risk of cognitive deficits and dementia. It also suggests that adults in their middle age who live by themselves have twice as much risk of developing dementia than those who don’t. In addition, being divorced or widowed adds to the dementia risk.
Dementia, Depression, and Loneliness
The link between dementia, depression, and loneliness becomes even more complicated when an individual has been diagnosed with dementia. The main reason for this is that the symptoms of dementia could cause the individual to withdraw from social situations as their condition progresses. Feelings of shame and embarrassment might cause him to avoid any kind of social interaction. He might adamantly refuse to do things that he previously loved to do or see individuals, even family members. But individuals living with dementia can really benefit from regular social connections, given the proper circumstances and appropriate care.
How to Help a Loved One Cope with Loneliness
It’s perfectly normal to feel very frustrated and helpless upon realizing that your loved one is lonely, but there are certain steps that you can try to help him cope with his feelings. If he doesn’t live with you or if he lives by himself, make the effort to visit him regularly. Once he gets used to the idea of you visiting, you can then bring up having other people over as well. Keep in mind that your presence, even if not all visits don’t go exactly as planned, will make a difference.
You can also consider opting for adult day care to make his transition into a senior assisted living community in Phoenix, Arizona in the future easier for him. In fact, individuals with dementia do well in adult day care facilities with properly trained care staff. Also, regular attendance in adult day care can even help delay the need for nursing home admission. The carefully planned activities and snacks really help ease loneliness in dementia patients. It will give your loved one’s primary caregiver—if applicable—a break even for several hours a day.
It is also crucial that your loved one gets treated for his depression to help unload all the various emotional burdens he might be holding on to. You should also arrange different activities for him to see which ones he can enjoy and help him ease into interacting with other individuals. Dementia and depression typically go together if an individual is faced with crippling feelings of loneliness. Fortunately, there are things you can try to do to help lighten your loved one’s load.