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Two-thirds feel isolated after dementia diagnosis

Two-thirds feel isolated after dementia diagnosis
12th January 2016

It's important that elderly people get access to all the support they need, whether that is financial, emotional or physical. This reduces the risk of them becoming isolated and their mental health suffering. However, when an older person receives a diagnosis of something like dementia, it can be crucial to ensure their physical and mental health is maintained.

Recent research from the Alzheimer's Society found that being diagnosed with dementia can be damaging for an elderly person, beyond the initial health problems associated with the condition. 

In a survey of 300 people living with the condition, it was found that 64 per cent felt isolated from their friend and family after they were diagnosed with dementia. This is understandable given the nature of the disease, as a separate study of the general public revealed that nearly half (41 per cent) would feel isolated if they couldn't recognise their loved ones.

In fact, not being able to remember close friends and family was seen as more isolating than getting divorced or a romantic relationship breaking down.

However, there is a massive amount of misconception about how people with dementia can be supported and helped through their condition. The Alzheimer's Society research found that 42 per cent of the general public were not convinced that visiting a loved one with dementia could benefit them if they were no longer able to remember them.

In addition, the study of those with the condition revealed that many people with dementia withdraw from social activities, with more than half (54 per cent) not taking part in any or hardly any.

No longer being able to recognise loved ones and not engaging in social activities could help explain why so many people with dementia feel isolated after a diagnosis. However, the survey found that more than two-thirds (68 per cent) of respondents said they would continue to visit someone with dementia even if they did not recognise them, with some even saying they would increase visits.

A lack of awareness about the condition and the importance of emotional memory for those with the condition means that many people with dementia feel isolated.

With this in mind, the Alzheimer's Society is urging people to make a positive New Year's resolution to spend time with people with dementia and help them take part in activities they enjoy to keep connected.

The post-Christmas period can be difficult for those living with dementia and their carers, as the long, dark nights can make their condition worse through sundowning and an inability to engage in activities or see their family as much as over the holidays.

Although the condition progresses to the point where many can no longer recognises faces of their loved ones, they still have emotional memory, meaning they can continue to feel happy long after a visit or experience that they may have forgotten. 

This means that spending time with loved ones is key for their happiness, as well as feeling comfort and security.

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of Alzheimer's Society, said: "After spending time with friends and family over the festive period, New Year can be a bleak and lonely time for people with dementia and their carers. 

"It's so important for people with dementia to feel connected throughout the year. Spending time with loved ones and taking part in meaningful activities can have a powerful and positive impact, even if they don't remember the event itself. We're urging people to get in touch with us and find out how we can help you stay connected."

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