Even as memory declines, friendships can endure
"The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing ... not healing, not curing ... that is a friend who cares." - Henri Nouwen
As most of you know who read my column, Memory Matters offers a class, Connections, specifically for persons in the early stages of dementia. These classes are designed to help people accept their diagnosis, and to realize they should not be defined by, or ashamed of, this diagnosis.
The class also gives the students an opportunity to develop new friendships, while encouraging them to maintain their old friendships.
The students are taught to accept changes in their memory, rather than "fake it," which can be a great source of stress. Acceptance helps restore balance in their lives, and gives them a sense of accomplishment.
Suggestions to aid in acceptance can include:
So how does the person who has been diagnosed with dementia help friends and family understand what is happening?
Here are a few very important tips:
There will be times when relationships get stuck. Don't give up! Help each other realize that changes are going to happen so changes in the relationship need to happen. It is not always going to feel comfortable but some adjustments can be made. These include:
True friendship is not something to be taken for granted. As we age, these friendships become even more important, but with age comes change, physically and mentally. These changes do not have to end a friendship.
Do you have a friend who has been newly diagnosed? Need some support? Call Memory Matters at 843-842-6688. We can help.
Karen Doughtie is assistant director of Memory Matters, serving Bluffton and Hilton Head. email@example.com; memory-matters.org