If you find social activities a difficult area of caregiving, perhaps considering the patient’s disabilities and limitations and how to respond appropriately will help.
It’s important not to make the judgment that just because your loved one is ill, they can no longer participate in all the activities they did before. The difference is the level of assistance they need. If they enjoyed attending community sports events or craft shows, they may still enjoy those same activities. After people are diagnosed with LBD, they increasingly need someone to drive them around town and stay with them in case they become confused or have a physical problem such as impaired balance. Many caregivers, when taking their loved ones out, extend a supporting hand to steady the person with LBD because of their difficulty with balance or gait disturbance. People with LBD may enjoy fishing, but due to visual-spatial problems, no longer can or should operate a boat. Someone will have to take them or perhaps find a place for them to sit and fish from shore. With minimal help, someone in the early stages of LBD may be able to participate in many community events that they enjoyed before they became ill. When a person with LBD is participating in activities, always take necessary safety precautions.
The amount and type of activity will be limited as an individual’s condition declines. Try to find a way to adjust to the disability rather than deserting the activity completely. For instance, if your loved one can no longer play a musical instrument, help them build a collection of CD’s of their favorite music. There is much to be gained by keeping people with dementia active with things they enjoy. As long as there are no safety issues involved or they can easily be resolved, why not be adventurous and creative in your caregiving? It’s true that as the illness progresses some activities will have to be set aside, but try to find something to replace the activity that is no longer possible. This way you and your loved one will always move in a positive direction when dealing with social activities instead of feeling defeated by the illness.
LBDA would like to thank Amy and Gerald Throop, authors of Living with Lewy's: Empowering Today's Dementia Caregiver for sharing this edited excerpt from their book. For more information on Living with Lewy's, visit www.candobooks.us.