New Strategies for Dementia Community
Life in the last year has been one of great adaptation. For those living with dementia, dementia community was even more vital. Research is showing that the isolation many experienced increased cognitive decline. Necessity made us adapt.
For many of us, our adaptation involved combatting isolation with online and telephone resources. Out of necessity, we were able to pivot to continue our outreach and interconnection. This gave us flexibility in frequency and availability.
Research shows that online education and cognitive behavior therapy improve the mental health of dementia caregivers. This is borne out in a recent publication of Brain & Life: “By switching to virtual events, we have reached a population that may have been overlooked before. ‘We’ve filled a niche we didn’t know was there, even without COVID”. Even telemedicine research validates the use of smartphone and digital technology.
As we have pivoted to virtual and telephone education, support and engagement, we have been able to meet more frequently and more easily. What was at first surprising and awkward, became second nature. As dementia stages advance, the ability to “get out the door” had become more challenging. The coaxing, the prep with grooming, timing, medication had prevented many from reaching out for the health that education, support and engagement offer. With the new virtual and telephone strategies took much of those obstacles off the table.
In the words of one virtual support group member, “The virtual world has helped those of us who are often isolated in our homes,” Ogden says. “I like feeling anchored to a community. I’m really sad that it took a pandemic to make it happen, but now that virtual events are here, I really hope they don’t go away.”2
Many initially said, “I’m too old for all that technology.” But we adapted. Family members set up the computer for mom and dad to use easily; organizations offered training courses on successful virtual participation. Telephone calls and video chats became more vital than ever. With the right support, we see that indeed we learned new technology. We have developed deeper friendships and stronger support than we had from simply attending live events.
The new reality of virtual connection is that it is stronger than imaginable. In fact, most organizations polled said that they would take the new and add it to the old.
What kind of virtual dementia communities are available?
- Support Groups
- Memory Cafes
- Mentoring for Care Partners
- Team Training
- Family Coaching
- Grief Counseling
One of the perks of virtual gatherings is developing community with care partners from different parts of the globe. A University of Texas study found that attendees of virtual memory cafes reported themes of inclusivity and connectiveness even from those in geographically remote locations.What we all share is life with dementia.
If you are new to life with dementia, or needing the boost of being with others on the same journey, consider joining a virtual dementia community. You can try out several to find the communities that serve you. Sharing time with those on the same path can make a huge difference. For more information contact Dr. Cate at firstname.lastname@example.org.