This weekend I watched the film Caregivers (don’t you just love On Demand?). One theme that jumped out was the isolation that caregivers suffer. Several of the film’s stars (I think that’s a good name for them) talked about how very quietly the invitations to events and gatherings stopped. Not only does this damage the patient, but even more so the caregiver who needs more than ever to maintain her connections to the world.
This happens with families with special needs children, as well. They lose their friends and even family as their child grows past the infant years.
It all comes down to lack of knowledge. Very few, if any, of us innately know how to interact with a person with mental deficits or behavioral issues. The good thing is, it’s not too hard to learn.
If you have a friend, neighbor, or family member who is caring for an individual with Alzheimer’s, another form of dementia, behavioral issues, mental retardation, Turret’s Syndrome, or any other type of disability that affects the mind, please – don’t shy away from them – they need you in their life. Just ask your friend – “I would love to spend the afternoon with you, please tell me what to expect from Vanessa, and please give me some tips on how to interact with her.” There are also so many books and websites devoted to various special needs and highlighting skills for interacting with the special needs person.
And if you are the caregiver and you have noticed that your friends and family invite you out less frequently – call them up, explain that you understand why they have backed off, and then ask if you could describe a few tips for how to spend time with your loved one.
All it takes is a little bit of knowledge, patience, and a willingness to try something new.