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The benefits of companionship for people living with dementia

The benefits of companionship for people living with dementia
Date published: 12 September 2022 Author: Izzi Parsonage Categories:

When you receive a dementia diagnosis, it’s common to wonder what the future holds. You may be concerned about how quickly your disease will progress and what the later stages of dementia will look like for you. Or you might worry about how long you’ll be able to look after yourself in your home.

While there is sadly no cure for dementia at the moment, there are plenty of things you can do to make sure you’re able to live more comfortably and with a better quality of life.

And there are plenty of things you can ask family and friends to help out with too – not least keeping you company with visits and phone calls from time to time. 

The dangers of loneliness in older adults

Companionship is a basic human need. As a species we are not designed to live alone, and even relatively small amounts of social contact and verbal communication can make a massive difference when it comes to mental and physical wellness. It’s been proven by science.

One study from Harvard Health found that loneliness and isolation was associated with a 29% higher risk of coronary artery disease and a 32% higher risk of having a stroke. They noted, “this doesn’t prove that loneliness or social isolation causes these problems, but it adds to concerns. Loneliness has already been linked to a compromised immune system, high blood pressure and even an early death.” 

While this study of Loneliness and the Health of Older People found that loneliness was strongly associated with depression, worse sleep, immune stress responses and cognitive impairments over time in the elderly. Phew!

It stands to reason, doesn’t it? If you’re not engaging in social activities, speaking to people, or using your brain regularly, you’re likely to find you get out of practice. In a similar way to what happens if you don’t use your muscles.

That’s why, in our minds, we believe that care for dementia patients should not be just about the practical things. It should have a large focus on companionship, mental stimulation, and social and physical activity.  

The difference companionship can make to a person with dementia

Of course, the research cited above was mainly focused on older adults, but this study from only a couple of years ago found that loneliness was associated with a 40% increased risk of dementia. So what can be done to help and make sure people don’t enter a vicious cycle of loneliness and dementia? 

At Promedica24, we’ve seen first hand how people with dementia can benefit in a wide range of ways when companionship is made a priority as part of the care plan. And it’s not just about heart health or mental health. Companionship, sharing a conversation over a cup of tea, interacting with patience, time and a sense of humour throughout everyday life, can genuinely improve outcomes. It can keep people at home longer, put them in a better mood, help them recover faster from illness and even stabilise or reduce signs and symptoms of dementia. 

What’s more, companionship over time increases trust within the relationship and can give people with dementia the peace of mind that there is someone around if something goes wrong. 

What does companionship look like?  

Companionship in dementia care is more than just someone ‘being around’ and doing everyday tasks. It’s about thinking about what the person with dementia may like and enjoy. Perhaps that’s putting on some favourite music or singing favourite songs together. Depending on the stage of dementia it might be going out to dinner, to the theatre or to a museum. Or it could simply be sitting down to look at an old photo album or talk about special memories from days gone by. 

Of course, these and other dementia friendly activities can be supported by friends or relatives as well, it doesn’t have to be the responsibility of a carer. And if someone lives alone, an appropriate, low-maintenance pet could be a wonderful source of companionship and unconditional love.

Caring with compassion

At Promedica24, we believe dementia care is about more than just the practicalities of everyday activities. In fact, we deliberately hire our care workers on the basis that they have a natural compassion for people and the right attitude to give the most to their role.

Caring for someone who has been diagnosed with dementia, and the challenging behaviour that appears as the disease progresses, can be incredibly draining.

If you’ve been diagnosed with dementia, remaining in the familiar surroundings of your home can be hugely beneficial when it comes to your comfort and independence, but without regular visitors could lead to loneliness. But there are ways to make sure this doesn’t happen.

Arranging live-in care or domiciliary care can take the pressure off family members and make sure you have regular company. What’s more, if you have a pet, the carer will be able to help feed, walk or look after it alongside tending to your personal care and other household chores. 

If you would like to find out more about the live-in dementia care we offer and how our dedicated care workers could support you and your family with specialist care or companionship care, please contact us.

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