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Two events occurred almost simultaneously yesterday that prompted today’s blog. First, a member wrote on the message boards lamenting the fact that her husband’s life-long friends and close family have abandoned him since his Alzheimer’s Disease diagnosis. Secondly, I received an e-mail from our member, Betsy Howe, who writes for her chapter’s Alzheimer’s Association Newsletter.  She sent me her latest article that just happened to be on the loss of old friends when dementia strikes. Not everything she writes or suggests is possible for everyone, but I think there is a lot of wisdom in her words, which is why I have given her the first “Guest Blogger” spot of 2010.  See below:

SUGGESTIONS FROM A CAREGIVER—Support, Part 5—The Elephant in the Room - Article published in Great Plains Chapter, Alzheimer’s Assn., Winter 2010 Newsletter
© Elizabeth (Betsy) Howe 2009

The Alzheimer’s Association, in addition to others working with dementia, stress the importance of keeping up an active social life. These same sources also caution that the individual with dementia and their caregiver must be prepared to be ‘dumped’ by some or
all of their current friends. We have come to the realization that perhaps being ‘dumped’ by friends is something we can control!

Over the past couple years of Dave’s and my journey, we have kept all our friends, and we’ve given a great deal of thought as to why that may be. Certainly we want to credit our friends with being loving, caring people. And our psychologist says that Dave and I
are to give ourselves credit for maintaining an optimistic, positive attitude that others find appealing. Humans are inherently drawn to comfort sad people, but can seldom tolerate more than a few minutes in the presence of the seriously depressed….and a bit longer in
the presence of those who are continually sad most of the time, although perhaps not depressed. Talking about the trials of your condition or that of your loved one, to the exclusion of other topics has to be mentally and emotionally draining for friends, as it is
for the caregiver and care-receiver.

We’ve come to believe that perhaps one of the biggest reasons friends ‘dump’ those with cancer, dementia and other life-altering conditions is the ‘elephant in the room.’ Too often those of us with such a condition in our family get so stuck in the denial and desire
to be ‘normal’ that we leave the elephant squarely in the middle of the room. We do not acknowledge our condition in a matter-of-fact way, as we would say, the number of children or grandchildren we have, or what we had for lunch.

That leaves the friends with little recourse to relieve THEIR anxiety over a situation that they can clearly recognize is NOT ‘normal’, especially as the condition progresses. While human beings generally care about other people, the tendency is to NOT hang
around with those who make us feel uncomfortable, whether we know why we feel uncomfortable or not. When faced with continual discomfort we tend to come up with excuses to have less and less contact with those people or that situation.

We all strive for control in our lives. Working to focus on the positive, no matter how‘small’ that positive might seem to others, is something we CAN control. Helping our friends feel comfortable with the ‘new’ us by acknowledging our condition matter-of factly is something we CAN control.

We all need support as we journey life’s path. Maintaining previous friendships is one way we can achieve support. That support may just be a break from dealing with the challenges we now face by talking about ordinary things as we used to, hearing about our
friends lives and concerns, discussing the Huskers or the weather. For more condition specific support there are other resources.

We have talked before about the benefits of attending the Great Plains Chapter twice-a-month support group for individuals with dementia and their caregivers. The social aspects of this twice-monthly group are perhaps the biggest advantage to the individual with dementia and their caregiver. In this group, everyone has an ‘elephant’ sitting on their shoulder so it might be a good place to start becoming comfortable acknowledging the condition (elephant) that is taking us down a different path from most of our friends.

Dave and I have made several personal friends from among those we have met over time at these twice-monthly Great Plains Chapter support group sessions. We get together regularly outside of the group setting with these new friends. So we have actually added
to our social network!

Now you might be wondering, “Where do I start dealing with the elephant?” You handle this situation the same way you EAT an elephant. Just begin somewhere/somehow and
take one ‘bite’ at a time!

Please post comments under the existing message board topic:Where are Friends and Family?

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©Copyright 2010 Joan Gershman 
The Alzheimer Spouse LLC
2009 All Rights Reserved   


The material included on this website contains general information intended as information only. This site is not intended to provide personal, professional, medical, or psychological advice, and should not be relied upon to govern behavior in any certain or particular circumstances. The opinions in the blogs are solely those of the owner of the website. The opinions on the message boards are not necessarily endorsed by the owner of this website, and are the opinions of those persons writing the messages. All material on this web site is for demonstration and informational purposes only.           

The Alzheimer Spouse LLC 2009 All Rights Reserved          











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