My sister’s friends seemed to have stopped visiting as often as they were before she developed Alzheimer’s. Should I take the initiative and take my sister to visit them?

It is not uncommon for individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia to experience social isolation because of withdrawal from friends and other important people in their lives. Well-meaning friends want to help and voice their willingness with offers of assistance.

However, as time goes by and the disease progresses, these well-meaning friends oftentimes grow uncomfortable during visits. They don’t know what to say or know how to comfortably communicate with his/her friend whose disease is slowly deteriorating his/her mental and physical capacity.

Those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia still need a social outlet, so it is important to keep your sister engaged with others for as long as possible. Take the initiative and schedule visits with your sister’s friends. With some coaching and planning, you can make her friends more comfortable around her.

For instance, arrange a day and time to visit, and then prepare that particular friend. Let the friend know changes in your sister’s memory or behavior, and that she may speak with repetitive phrases, may become fidgety or restless, or not even recognize the face of the friend.

Schedule a time to go to the friend’s home when your sister’s mood and attention are at the optimal level. Plan an activity with the friend and your sister, such as looking at photo albums, having tea, cooking together, anything that your sister would enjoy. Make sure everyone is relaxed and comfortable, and that your sister feels safe and secure in the environment.

Keep in mind that your sister may experience some anxiety, causing her to either wander or be distracted from the activity. Take a break. Walk around. Enjoy another activity

Friends often have a difficult time with seeing the marked changes in someone they care about suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Some of your sister’s friends may not be able to come to grips with the fact that their beloved friend has a fatal disease of which there is no prevention, maintenance or cure. Try not to take their negative reactions and lack of actions personally. Some will respond and some simply will not. Making the most out of the visit, providing a meaningful experience and positive interactions will enhance and enrich your sister’s life and help ease her fear or anxiety, and will keep her socially active and connected to her community and world.

Contact Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, Director of Services at Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area, (225) 334-7494, advice@alzbr.org, or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.