Though there isn’t a cure for Alzheimer’s disease yet, social interaction might be helpful in easing symptoms and improving outcomes.
Just 1 hour of social interaction each week can significantly improve the quality of life and reduce symptoms in people with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a 2018 study conducted in the United Kingdom.
In contrast, being alone all the time can contribute to a
Here are some answers to common questions about how to stay social and maintain routines and relationships with Alzheimer’s.
“Maintaining routines, relationships, and mental and physical activities are important for people living with Alzheimer’s disease as they can provide a sense of structure, predictability, and purpose,” says
According to Stoeckel, research shows that people with Alzheimer’s disease who maintain their daily routines cope better with their condition. They tend to have a better quality of life and improved ability to perform activities of daily living than those who don’t maintain a routine.
Nate Chin, MD, a geriatrician at UW Health and medical director at the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center in Madison, Wisconsin, tells Healthline, “People with dementia can become apathetic or depressed or simply forget to do certain things/tasks. Under these circumstances, the person may not feel motivated to do things, such as exercise or engage in a puzzle. They may forget that a puzzle was available to them.”
They may have trouble deciding what to do each day. So, routines may be essential to help accomplish daily tasks.
“When you have structure and daily routines, you reduce the barriers to doing these activities,” Chin explains. “You can simplify the cognitive demand on a person by having them engage in their routine instead of challenging their brain with something new.”
It might take careful planning and organization to keep routines like they were before your diagnosis. Try to start establishing a routine soon after a diagnosis so it can be practiced, and habits can be formed.
Here are a few tips:
- Do a task at a similar time each day.
- Include activities that you enjoy.
- Decide whether you can do the activity alone or whether you need help.
- Consider watching the activity instead.
- Incorporate exercise, like a daily walk.
- Keep important documents, like insurance cards, passports, and medical records in one place, so the routine won’t be thrown off if you can’t find something.
- Include periods of rest.
- Continue to follow the routine even when you’re traveling.
One of the best ways to stay more social when you have Alzheimer’s is to combine social interaction with an activity that is already part of your daily routine. For example, if you’re already taking a daily walk, invite your friends and family to walk with you.
Volunteering in a group setting can also help you feel less lonely and give you a sense of purpose. The cause should be something meaningful to you. For example, if you’re an animal lover, consider volunteering at an animal shelter.
You can also try enrolling in a community class to learn a new skill. Examples include:
- chair yoga
- walking clubs
- gardening classes
Reach out to your local public library or community center for classes in your area.
Yes! Even with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, you should be able to learn new routines and habits over time.
“This means that people can still learn procedures (i.e., daily habits) if practiced enough. It also means that people’s longstanding habits are often preserved because it is a different part of the brain than the one affected by the disease.”
Even if a person doesn’t recall doing the activity or the details of the activity, Chin notes that “they can still do the activity itself today, as long as it has been learned over time.”
After a diagnosis, you’ll likely feel anxious about participating in activities you once enjoyed. You might notice that friends and family treat you differently or exclude you from certain situations.
Remember that you’re still the same person you were before your diagnosis. Make sure to communicate openly with your loved ones about living with Alzheimer’s. Let them know that you still want to spend time together and the best ways to support you in daily life.
Then, try to work social time into your routine. This doesn’t always have to be in person. You can use email, social media, video chat, voice texts, or text messages to touch base. Sending letters or cards is another good way to keep up with old friendships.
A great way to make new friends is to join local support groups for people with Alzheimer’s disease. The Alzheimer’s Association has free message boards via their online community called ALZConnected.
For in-person support, consider getting information from:
A Memory Café is a program where people with dementia can socialize, chat, listen to music, draw, and play games. Memory Cafes are often hosted by healthcare and social services professionals. They may meet at coffee shops, assisted living facilities, schools, places of worship, or libraries.
There are hundreds of Memory Cafés that meet regularly. Find one using the Memory Café Directory.
Maintaining social connections and routines can help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and prevent cognitive decline.
“As the disease progresses, routines will change and should be adapted to meet the person’s changing needs,” Stoeckel tells Healthline.
He recommends working with a specialist in the field or a geriatric care manager to ensure that the routines are appropriate and beneficial as the disease progresses.