Believe it or not, July 11 is “Cheer Up the Lonely Day,” and while it may not be a well-known and celebrated holiday, there is some significant history behind its creation. It began with one man’s simple determination to ensure that no one has to face life’s experiences alone; it was a means of promoting kindness and empathy toward others by developing meaningful connections.
Spending each of his birthdays visiting local nursing homes, Francis Pesek believed that small and simple actions were the key to helping everyone feel valued and loved. As we approach July 11 in what has been a very unique and often challenging year, his same intention is our charge: what is one thing we can do to cheer someone else up?
For individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, while their memory may not be perfect, their feelings are very much real. According to the 2012 United Kingdom Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Report, 61% of people with dementia felt lonely. On the flip side, being a caregiver can also be incredibly lonely. Even though you may not actually be alone – without others around you – loneliness is a deep feeling of wanting to connect with someone but not being able to.
Finding ways to combat loneliness and embracing joy are key for both sides. Here are four simple tips to consider in order to facilitate happiness in any situation.
- Relate to Their Experiences
One of the best ways to overcome sadness or loneliness is to feel seen by another and finding ways to connect on simple ideas or memories from the past can be a great way to bring back a smile. While someone might struggle to remember details from a few minutes ago, it’s likely they are able to recall some beloved events from the past.
- Remember to Laugh
Humor can be one of the most powerful coping mechanisms for both caregivers and those they support, and facilitating laughter is quickly becoming a widely-practiced strategy of professional institutions. A Los Angeles company called Laughter on Call began pairing comedians with residents of a local memory care living center to help improve their comprehensive approach to addressing the side-effects of dementia. The result was remarkable: the focus on comedy began to establish trust, safety, and comfort for individuals with cognitive impairments. It was a means by which caregivers could create lasting, positive mood shifts that would translate across the remainder of the day.
- Change the Environment
The impact of a simple switch in location can be significant for individuals living with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Often confined to a nursing facility or in-home care program, a change of scenery is a welcome opportunity to experience new environments and activities. Given the current circumstances in our country, this may be limited but even an outdoor stroll in a park or neighborhood can be a great place to start. For those with limited mobility, consider making a small trip to new rooms or communal areas within one’s care facility that you might normally forget to visit.
- Seek Professional Mental Health Help
When feeling overwhelmed or frustrated, it’s easy to forget that there are many resources—both online and in-person—available to caregivers who need additional support, as well as those suffering from dementia disorders. Consider leveraging these tools to address and improve mental health practices as part of an overall care strategy. There are many services available and many are covered by insurance or Medicare, including psychiatric evaluations to diagnostic tests, individual and family counseling, medication management, yearly depression screenings and more.