Maintaining Friendships Is Challenging for Caregivers and Those with Alzheimer’s

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by Ray Burow |

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This week people around the world celebrated International Day of Friendship. In 2011, the United Nations General Assembly designated July 30 as a day to recognize the power of friendship to address disharmony in the world by “accumulating bonds of camaraderie and developing strong ties of trust.”

The saying, “To have friends, you must be a friend,” may have come from a biblical proverb. This reciprocal nature of friendship presents a quandary for caregivers and Alzheimer’s patients alike. The latter may have lots of friends, but as their disease progresses, friendships begin to fall away. While the situation is sad and disappointing, it’s also understandable.

Be a friend

Over time, an Alzheimer’s patient loses their ability to demonstrate friendship in the way that they could before the disease took its toll. As the relationship becomes more one-sided, the definition of friendship needs to be revisited. A good friend will take up the slack, and carry both sides of the friendship. Keeping in touch with a friend who has Alzheimer’s might even keep the disease at bay for a while longer.

Keep friendships going

Acceptance is the first step toward maintaining a relationship with a friend who has Alzheimer’s disease. Speak with their caregiver about what your friend can and cannot do. Ask what stage of the disease your friend is at, as their progression will determine the degree to which they are capable of connecting.

Keep in mind that your friend will have good and bad days. And no matter what they do or say, try not to be offended.

Facing the challenge

Given the demands of Alzheimer’s disease, friendships often take a back seat. The challenges of caregiving invade every aspect of life, including making and keeping friends.

How do you explain to a good friend that caregiving is more than a part-time job? Give your friends the benefit of the doubt and stop fearing that they will have moved on when the carefree days return. Trust that they will understand that caregiving takes precedence in your life right now. Be upfront about your availability and ask them to stay in touch — or even take the wheel for a while. Believe that the reason for your friendship will rise to the surface.

After all, if the tables were turned, how would you respond?

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Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s Disease.

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