You had an active social life, playing cards, tennis, dinner, movies, clubs, groups but all that changed when your spouse or partners dementia symptoms became more noticeable to others.
“My husband was a prominent attorney in NJ and now he can’t even order from a menu when we go out with other couples. It is quite embarrassing and now I find that we are not invited as often. I really thought these people were my friends, I guess not.”
A couple who once had an active social life may find that, that changes as a result of one spouse having dementia. This can occur for a variety of individual or combined reasons. As a result of increased caregiving needs, there may be a depletion of energy that was previously devoted to time spent with friends and family (Sullivan, 2015).
I am just so tired at the end of the day. My husband’s incontinence has me cleaning the sheets every day and the bathroom is such a mess all of the time. By the evening time I am simply exhausted, I am hesitant to accept social invitations because I feel guilty when I have to cancel because I am too tired”.
K.L. New York
As the disease progresses, some couples may find that their social circles may become smaller and the number of social invitations received become less and less over time. This in part may be due to friends becoming more uncomfortable extending invitations because their care partner is too disabled to participate as they had in the past.
My wife had the same conversation with Ruth and Hy. They heard at least 10 times that our grandson’s little league team won their championship. The story wasn’t even correct, they came in second place but I certainly wasn’t going to correct her. By the third time my wife told the story, I saw Ruth roll her eyes. I know that will be the last invitation we receive from them. Frustrated in California
Here are a few ideas of how to make socializing work better for you.
1. Connect with Friends Who Care
There may be a friend or two who is still connected to you and your spouse/partner, they don’t care about the challenges and love you no matter what. Talk to your friend about your concerns pertaining to your relationship. Be honest and open with each other about your feelings and what your relationship should look like considering all of the challenges. Most times it brings people closer.
I spoke to Alice and told her how embarrassed I was of my husband’s behavior the other night. She was honest with me and told me that she didn’t care about his behavior, she was more concerned about me and how I manage those issues every day. It opened up a wonderful conversation and I realized that I worry so much about what others think that I don’t take good care of myself. She really is a good friend.
2. Join a support group
Support groups can offer an opportunity not only to get support, gain insight and information but also to make friends. Connecting and making friends with other support group members can provide you with socializing opportunities with people who “get it”. Support group members are typically in the same boat as you and may have more empathy for you and your situation which may make socializing easier.
3. Ask your doctor or therapist if they have other patients/clients they could introduce you to.
Doctors and therapists probably see many people who are in similar situations like yours. It doesn’t hurt to ask your therapist if they know anyone who you may click with. Get proper consent to release contact information and reach out. In my practice, I had four couples who were all at similar stages in the disease process. I invited all four couples into my office to meet and get to know each other. After that initial meeting in my office the four couples met monthly for dinner and the “well” spouses kept in touch and supported each other separately as well.
Socializing doesn’t have to end when your spouse has dementia, it just may look different than it did before. Get creative, be honest and educate those who are misinformed.