A recent survey reveals that people living with dementia and their primary carers — mostly spouses — feel alone. They are almost twice as likely to experience high rates of loneliness because of stigma.

In 2016, the acting CEO of Alzheimer’s Australia Vic, Leanne Wenig confirmed the long-recognised fact that friendships and family relationships fall away dramatically when a person is diagnosed with dementia. Ms Wenig puts this down to “a general lack of awareness and understanding of dementia” that leaves people uncertain as to “how to interact with their friend or loved one with dementia.”*

Dementia awareness Stay in touch with friends and family

This is the worst possible outcome for all concerned

People with dementia need the company and support of friends, and their carers need company too and regular breaks from their caring role. The Alzheimer’s Australia Report 2017 on Dementia and the Impact of Stigma confirms both people with dementia and their primary carers feel more isolated than the general population stating “I feel lonely more often than usual”.

Our message to people living with dementia is a powerful but simple affirmation that ‘you are not alone’.

We all have a role to play…

…in ensuring that relatives, friends and colleagues living with dementia are afforded the same companionship, love, respect and understanding as any other member of our community.

We asked Daughterly Care professional Hourly Caregivers and Live in Carers how they would support their best friend, if she or he was diagnosed with a form of dementia.

Their thirteen insightful answers are in the “comments” section below and will give you valuable ideas for how you can continue to support your family and friends.

Feel welcome to add a comment on how you maintain your friendship with a friend who has a diagnosis of dementia.

Daughterly Care Managing Director and Registered Nurse, Verlie Hall says

“the fact is you can have a form of dementia and still live a life that has meaning, purpose, value and joy. Read how best friends, Helena and Elizabeth, maintained their friendship through 10 years of dementia”

True Story:

Daughterly Care Helps Devoted Friends of 40 Years Stay True

dementia elder friends happy home care
Helena and Elizabeth had been best of friends for 40 years or more. Helena has dementia and is otherwise in perfect health, while Elizabeth is physically frail and mentally sharp.

Every Saturday without fail…

…one of Daughterly Care’s Caregivers prompted and assisted Helena to shower and dress, made sure she enjoyed a delicious breakfast and took her prescribed medications. After breakfast, our Caregiver drove Helena to Elizabeth’s unit, and the two friends would pass the day deep in conversation, completely happy in each other’s company.

At 4.00pm our Caregiver would return to pick Helena up and drive her home, make Helena’s dinner and help her to get ready for bed.

For 10 years these Saturday friendship-days visits continued

Helena’s dementia, if anything, seemed to strengthen the friendship between the two women as, in their shared adversity, they forged an even deeper bond.

Even after Helena had been placed in a nursing home for the last year of her life, when Saturday came round her familiar Daughterly Care Caregiver would pick her up from the nursing home and drive her to Elizabeth’s unit. There, the laughter rang out and the joy rolled on all day.

The secret to their continued friendship was a very simple adjustment by Elizabeth

Instead of questioning Helena with “Do you remember when”, Elizabeth would say: “One of the times I most enjoyed was when we took the kids camping to The Entrance in the Christmas holidays and we taught Sally to swim.”

Elizabeth would take out her photo album and the two friends would revisit those treasured moments over and over. And Helena’s conversation would flow naturally and made perfect sense. Helena’s daughter also made an adjustment. She realised that Elizabeth’s frailty meant for their friendship to continue she had to organise for her Mum to spend each Saturday at Elizabeth’s home.

It was an enjoyable day for both Helena and Elizabeth for 10 years.

Instinctively, Elizabeth had found a way for her friend to re-live the happiness of their shared past, without requiring Helena to remember, without questioning her, without interrogating her.

Instead of saying “Remember when…”, she would simply say “I remember when we…”

Alzheimer’s Australia released a number of print resources — such as ‘Friends matter’, ‘Friends and Family matter’ and ‘Talk to me’.

These publications offer practical advice to the 1.2 million family and friends of more than 413,000 Australians living with dementia.

The brochure, ‘Talk to me’ offers simple practical advice as how best to communicate with people living with dementia.

‘Friends matter’ and ‘Friends and Family matter’ invite us to see the world as one living with dementia sees it so that we can actively help to break down the barriers and pre-conceptions that so often lead to exclusion and isolation.

Verlie added “People living with dementia are working very hard to compensate for the symptoms of their disease. Being prepared to ‘walk a mile in their shoes’ can help family and friends understand and be more accepting. More importantly they can enable the joy of family and friendship to continue.”

Short, easy to read and filled with valuable insights

These brochures are freely available to read online or download and print.

Click here for Friends Matter Government booklet and checklist

Click here for the Talk to Me booklet

With almost 21 years’ experience, Daughterly Care offers elders living with a form of dementia a wide range of support options including music, reminiscence validation therapies, art therapy and communication strategies. No-one knows better than us that effective support is a combination of friendship, genuine respect and a commitment to understanding the challenges a person living with dementia faces every day of their lives and providing personalised and tailored support and in home care that is most helpful to the person.

If you care for someone living with dementia take a 2 hour break from your caring role every time we visit.

And for a longer break ask us about the Government funded carer respite service works. If you would like more information on how we can support you or a family member, take a look at our services or give us a call on 02 9970 7333.

SOURCE *(see http://www.australianageingagenda.com.au/)

Question: If your friend had dementia, what activities could you keep doing with your friend? Let us know by adding a comment below.  Your email address is not shown online.