Should I continue to encourage my mom to be social, even as her Alzheimer's worsens?

1 answer | Last updated: Dec 07, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

How important is it to get my 75-year-old mom, who has Alzheimer's disease, out of the house to visit friends, go to parties, or go to church, when the next day she doesn't seem to remember having gone?

Expert Answers

Whether your mother remembers these experiences really doesn't matter. The measure of success is to understand how she experiences them. If the activities seem enjoyable, they should be continued indefinitely. On the other hand, if they're proving too stressful for her, they should be scaled back or stopped.

Being "in the moment" is paramount to people with Alzheimer's. They derive great satisfaction from pleasurable activities while they're experiencing them. The "here and now" becomes increasingly important for someone with dementia because of her inability to remember or plan ahead. These activities enable your mother to have normal life experiences, which gives her a chance to use her language, thinking, and mobility skills. Getting out and about or socializing a bit might also bring her joy.

When you're dealing with a condition that doesn't lend itself to a cure, you're really talking about adding life to years, not years to life. So we're looking for activities that bring her pleasure. Quality of life is what it's all about.

That's why, to the extent that the outings are still enjoyable, they should be continued. If going out becomes too complex for her or is proving too problematic for you, then scale back. For example, it's less hectic if one family member at a time visits rather than several adults all at once. Or find some easier alternatives, like inviting a friend to your mom's house instead of taking her to a big party. Your mother's behavior and mood will tell you whether she can handle a situation with ease or is too challenged.