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    Dementia Symptoms & Caregiver Strategies: Maintaining a Social Life While Caregiving

    One of the most common complaints of caregivers has to do with the reduction in their social contacts and activities. Caregivers find that they are unable to visit with friends and relatives, go out, or do the things they enjoy as much as they would like. As a result, caregivers often begin to feel socially isolated.

    The Power of Social Support

    As the primary caregiver of your loved one, most of your attention is probably spent on him/her. You may find that you rearrange other commitments and areas of your life to be with the person. You may also feel as though friends have limited their calls or visits, which may be the result of their own discomfort, not knowing what to say to you, or feeling like they will be in your way. Much of this can be changed through proper communication and allowing yourself some time to spend with friends. You need the support and love of your friends and family to feel less alone and to cope better with the challenges of caregiving.

    Tips for Maintaining Social Relationships:

    • Reassure your friends and family that although you may be busy, you do need and appreciate their support.
    • Be open and share your experiences as a caregiver with your friends and family so that they can try to understand what it is like for you.
    • Explain your loved one's diagnosis with those who are not familiar with it.
    • Invite friends and family over to visit or help while you are taking care of the person.
    • Take the time to call and catch up with those friends and relatives with whom you have lost touch. Be sure to ask them about their lives rather than just talking about your situation. This can serve as a great form of distraction.
    Maintaining a Life of Your Own

    It is not healthy to spend all of your time caring for your loved one, which can lead to resentment. Just as it was normal for you to do things without the person before he/she got ill, it is also okay now. You are an individual with your own interests, thoughts, and desires. Though work can sometimes be an additional burden, it is a good way for you to maintain a sense of purpose outside of caregiving. If you are retired or unable to hold a job because of your caregiving responsibilities, there are plenty of other things you can try.
    • Don't feel guilty about asking or hiring someone else to take care of your loved one while you do something on your own.
    • If you don't work, look into jobs that would allow you to work from home.
    • Accept invitations to social gatherings.
    • Find a hobby or activity that you like and do a little every day.
    • Do something at least once a week that you enjoy.
    Also, why not try:
    • Going out to lunch with a friend.
    • Renting a movie.
    • Inviting a friend over to play a game of cards.
    • Taking a walk in a nearby park.
    • Borrowing a good book from a friend and discussing it after you have read it.
    • Taking a class you are interested in.
    • Joining a club or group activity.
    • Attending a concert or sporting event.

    If the thought of going out and enjoying yourself makes you feel guilty, you are not alone. Many caregivers feel that enjoying themselves implies that they are abandoning the person they "should" be caring for. On the contrary, outside activities will help you maintain your sense of self and independence, clear your head, reduce stress, and in many cases actually improve your relationship.

    Cognitive Impairment can have many causes. The patient’s doctor should be consulted to determine a specific diagnosis and treatment options. But whatever the cause, the symptoms are often alike, and the Caregiver Strategies are often similar.

    The information in the resources listed above was compiled by the Ray Dolby Brain Health Center through clinical experience and commonly available published materials. For information on additional Caregiver Strategies, go to: