Couples Managing Dementia Find Common Ground in Group Sessions
For some couples whose relationship is affected by a spouse with dementia, it can be difficult to feel comfortable in social situations that once felt natural. Get-togethers with old friends and extended family may lead to uncomfortable silences or awkward conversations; outings to movies or restaurants can fill one partner with anxiety in anticipation of unexpected or inappropriate outbursts from their spouse. As a result, feelings of isolation can often set in as these couples retreat and spend more and more time on their own.
Circle of Care’s Couples Group for Managing Dementia was designed to help ease the loneliness that often sets in following a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s. Led by social workers, the group provides an opportunity for couples to socialize, participate in activities together, and to form a support network among others living the same experience.
“I’m so happy that I now have the opportunity to do something with my wife,” says one participant whose spouse has dementia. “Attending these sessions allows us to share an activity together and have a common experience.”
The outcome has been better than expected for everyone involved, and participants resistant to attending have undergone a transformation.
“I heard from one caregiver that her husband was not interested in attending initially,” says Nikki Sisera, one of the social workers who ran the spring program. “But now he doesn’t want the group to end. He asks about the sessions and is excited to leave the house to come. His caregiver was surprised but thankful that he enjoyed the group and was willing to attend each week.”
Couples often express a desire to continue socializing once the eight-week group sessions finish. Nikki and fellow social worker Maria direct them to Circle of Care’s Adult Day Program, which provides evidence-based recreational and cultural activities for participants while offering respite to caregivers.
“We have seen so many people truly bloom through this program,” says Nikki. “They became more outgoing, talkative, engaging, and willing to share their stories and participate in various activities. This really speaks to the benefits of socialization in a safe space for persons living with Alzheimer’s and dementia and the positive impact it can have on them.”