When it comes to caring for someone living with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, there is more to consider than just basic health and safety. While keeping up with mobility, safety, and nutrition concerns is certainly a priority for family and professional caregivers, dementia care also requires paying close attention to positive senior socialization, including creating meaningful connections with peers, family members, and caregivers.
At Cedarhurst Senior Living communities, we know that creating an environment that supports and enhances social circles for residents in our memory care neighborhoods is crucial to their overall wellness. Here is a look into how we make it happen.
Why Senior Socialization Matters
Research that connects positive health outcomes with socialization among older adults has been increasing over the past five years. One of the major benefits of peer connection is slower cognitive decline, but even those living with dementia can still benefit from positive socialization and meaningful connections with others. In fact, the Alzheimer’s Association notes that it’s never too late to get socially active to reduce the risk of depression and support overall brain health.
Healthy and positive socialization for seniors living with dementia can have multiple benefits including decreased anxiety and agitation, as well as improved sleep quality. Furthermore, connecting with others in a positive environment offers the opportunity for memory care residents to practice social skills like communication and adds to a comforting daily rhythm and routine.
Challenges with Senior Socialization
People living with dementia can have challenges with memory loss, but they can also struggle with communicating and with feeling overwhelmed in loud social situations.
For those in the early stage of the disease, social activities or meet-ups can be a serious source of anxiety. They worry that someone will notice their memory loss or judge them for making a social faux pas, or that they just won’t be able to keep up with the conversation. To add to that, in general, seniors have shrinking social circles due to retirement, family and friends moving away, and increased isolation while living at home alone or with a partner.
For those adults living in the middle stage of dementia, socialization becomes more challenging due to increased confusion, memory loss, and difficulties with word-finding. These issues can create feelings of anxiety and frustration, which further complicate positive socialization with peers.
There is a solution though, in the form of memory care communities that offer adaptations and opportunities for healthy socialization in the face of cognitive decline. Specialized senior living communities that care for those living with dementia are equipped to meet these challenges and create an environment that cultivates social circles, enhances positive connections, and eases anxiety.
Connecting with Peers
At Cedarhurst Senior Living communities, our environment, routine, and programs are designed to make socialization easier and more comfortable for all of our memory care residents.
Connecting Around the Table
Residents gather three times daily in our bright and social restaurant, making meals an anchor in the daily routine. Perhaps the best connections happen around the dining room table, and our team members work to start up conversations between neighbors with open-ended questions and reminiscing prompts, or by simply by seating residents with similar interests and personalities near one another. Chatting over a meal is natural to all of us, including residents living with dementia, and that connection three times a day boosts their dignity and quality of life.
Connecting During Social Events
At Cedarhurst Senior Living communities, life enrichment programs and events happen daily, adding even more rhythm to the day and offering more opportunities for residents to connect with one another and with team members.
Events and programs are based on the interests, abilities, and preferences of the residents in the community, which means not every Cedarhurst Senior Living community offers the exact same event calendar. Instead, you might find a morning coffee conversation group in a community with residents who love to wake up early and a harvest-inspired reminiscing group in a community with many past farmers as residents. You’ll also find sensory groups designed to heighten the senses and team members using adaptations in order to highlight the abilities of those we serve.
This personalized approach is just one way we bring our Living TRUE℠ culture to life. Residents have plenty of opportunities to connect during a shared event or program, and our staff goes out of their way to connect residents based on their shared interests. We also offer large groups, small groups, and one-on-one interactions so that residents feel comfortable and aren’t overstimulated, increasing their social success.
Connecting with Individualized Approaches and Interventions
Cedarhurst’s approach to memory care is rooted in giving everyone a personalized experience that changes as their abilities do. We use each resident’s past history as a guide to creating tailored routines and interventions unique to them.
For example, we might open curtains and sing a song when we assist with morning care with one resident while we quietly let another resident sleep in. We encourage group activities for residents who are extroverts while finding smaller, more intimate, interactions for more introverted residents to enjoy. We also find personalized ways for residents to comfortably and confidently interact with one another and their caregivers.
Our approach to getting residents involved in life around the community is driven by occupational therapy best practices. Residents find purpose in assisting with tasks that their mind may no longer remember but their body does. For example, we’ll ask a resident to fold cloth napkins before dinner, help out with watering our community garden, or peel potatoes for a cooking demonstration. If the resident needs prompting or cueing to start the task, we will provide that through verbal instruction or by handing them the tool they need to begin. The result is an individualized experience that promotes dignity and success while helping them to feel a part of their home.
Connecting with Caregivers
Connecting with professional memory care caregivers is just as important as connecting with peers. When a resident develops a relationship with a caregiver, it can enhance feelings of trust, comfort, and safety. Caregivers become a part of each resident’s social circle, learning more about their history, interests, and preferences. Then caregivers take this knowledge to develop a friendly rapport with everyone they serve.
Caregivers at Cedarhurst Senior Living communities are trained in best practices of dementia care and understand the complexities of dementia progression. They know how to use both verbal and nonverbal cues to create connections with residents. You’ll find caregivers holding a resident’s hand while escorting them to the restaurant for lunch or offering a friendly high five after the resident sings along to a favorite tune during a group. This approach puts the resident’s abilities at the forefront instead of focusing on what the resident struggles with.
Connecting with Family Members
Family members can often find it is easier to connect with their loved one once they’re a resident in a memory care community. When family members are no longer the primary caregiver, they can simply enjoy time with their loved one.
Family events are a common occurrence in memory care communities, when family members are invited to attend a special event with their loved one. Sometimes it’s a meal and a concert, other times it is a special art project, but no matter what the shared activity is, it’s all about creating a moment for the two to share.
Of course, family members are invited to visit and take part in programs and meals at any time. This open visitation policy helps to create a feeling of home. It’s common to see family members socializing with residents besides their own loved ones, further extending the social circles of everyone who lives there.
Learn More About the Cedarhurst Difference
At Cedarhurst Senior Living communities, team members are there to form relationships with residents so that they can provide personalized support for everyone they serve. Plus, our team members love getting to know each resident, sharing inside jokes and knowing just how to encourage them when they need it.
Learn more about why Cedarhurst Senior Living is different from other communities out there. Then experience the difference for yourself by scheduling a tour of a community near you or attending an event with your loved one at one of our communities. We’d love to welcome you into our social circle!