The Importance of Social Connection for Those with Dementia

The Importance of Social Connection for Those with Dementia

Jul 28, 2023

Caregiving & Aging

The Importance of Social Connection for Those with Dementia

The diagnosis of dementia or Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) can be difficult and confusing to understand. The fear of an uncertain future can be debilitating, often leaving individuals and their caregivers feeling hopeless and alone. A memory loss diagnosis can lead people to isolate from friends and family, potentially causing a decline in mental health. Dementia and aging professionals find that social connection and interaction can play a crucial role in aiding in the progression and overall quality of life with this diagnosis.

The results of a Northern Manhattan Study1 suggest that being both socially isolated and lonely is associated with increased odds of developing Mild Cognitive Impairment or dementia. Frequent conversations with friends and family showed lower odds of developing Mild Cognitive Impairment. Studies show that social connection is just as vital to our health as basic necessities like food, water, and shelter. The impact that isolation loneliness can have on someone can be detrimental. According to the University of Washington School of Medicine, “Chronic isolation and loneliness can increase the risk of dementia in older adults by 50%.”

Just as social connection is important in the prevention of dementia and other diagnoses, it also plays a crucial role after the diagnosis when the individual is entering their new reality. Heidi Ricks, FamilyMeans Dementia Program Coordinator, says “The diagnosis appointment happens and then most people are told to come back later for a check-up… now what? Our goal is to support those in that time of uncertainty through our different programs. We provide caring, compassionate, and expert coaching, support groups, and more to help ease the challenges that come with memory loss. Social connection plays a huge role in letting persons living with dementia and their caregivers know that they are not alone, and that dementia can be talked about with others in the same situation.”

FamilyMeans offers services to engage those living with dementia in social connection by offering group and in-home respite care options. Community Connection is a group to help break the stigma around memory loss while engaging people in their community and with each other. This group is designed for those with early-stage dementia. We also offer other groups, support, and education for persons living with dementia, families, and caregivers.

“I am so grateful for all of these programs to enhance and enrich our experience with early dementia” – Dementia Empowerment Programming Participant

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1Gardener, H., Levin, B., DeRosa, J., Rundek, T., Wright, C. B., Elkind, M. S. V., & Sacco, R. L. (2021). Social Connectivity is Related to Mild Cognitive Impairment and Dementia. Journal of Alzheimer's disease: JAD84(4), 1811–1820.