People manifest signs of cognitive impairment in many ways. Some people become forgetful, have short term memory issues, or even slight changes in their behavior. Others simply begin to withdraw socially. Isolation, withdrawal and loneliness is a huge problem for seniors, especially those with cognitive impairments. Sometimes people begin to notice their own cognitive changes and become frightened to go out, self conscious or worried that they will be judged by others. This is the worst possible situation for someone with a cognitive impairment as we are all social beings that need to be engaged, require socialization, and support. Being at home alone, isolated or with limited stimulation can cause cognitive decline. Socialization, routine, and support are critical for those with cognitive impairments. If you notice a family member of friend beginning down this path, provide support and assistance:
1. Spend time with them and provide an opportunity to talk and more importantly listen. Do they seem to struggle to find the right words? Do they seem sad? Do you see a change in their behavior? Try to focus on the feeling and emotions being conveyed.
2. Encourage a physician visit to assess their condition further and assist with medication management / adjustment. An anti depressant may be considered and of benefit. Some times a physician that does house calls can be a terrific and non threatening way to start this process.
3. Try to encourage socialization on their terms each week:
- A weekly family lunch each weekend
- A trip the hair dresser and / or nail salon
- Memory cafe meetings with a family member or friend
- Programs through a memory care out patient center or adult day care such as Insight Memory Care Center in Fairfax, Va (check your local area via internet search)
- Outings and events through the local senior center
- If having help at home with a CNA or private duty caregiver assist in maintaining a structured routine at home. Have a time set with the caregiver for structured and engaging activities based on their preferences: Games, cards, crafts, baking with supervision, puzzles, etc.
Feel free to contact me for guidance and to obtain a structured, individualized daily routine for your family member.
Routine, appropriate stimulation, and socialization will make all the difference!