The Value of Social Connections

Maintaining social connections has been a major part of our therapy since Kate’s diagnosis. I have found it especially important in recent months as Kate has declined more significantly. Although she enjoys being with others as much I do, her pleasure is strictly in the moment. On the other hand, I enjoy the anticipation, the moment, and the memories. As a caregiver, being with other people lifts my spirits. I never heard my dad express it, but I know he must have felt the same way as he cared for my mother who had dementia.

Yesterday we drove to Asheville for what turned out to be a better than expected variety of social experiences. As I mentioned in my previous post, I thought it could be our last one and wanted to see a couple of people who had meant a lot to us on our previous visits. A few days before leaving, I learned that one of my Twitter friends and her husband were in Asheville and would be driving back home Sunday afternoon. I asked if we might meet before they left. We decided to get together at our hotel as soon as we arrived.

Our meeting went off without a hitch. I was eager to meet my friend and was eager to introduce her to Kate. This could have easily been a conversation between my friend and me, but she immediately looked straight at Kate and engaged in conversation with her. I was pleased to see that. It illustrated her sensitivity and comfort level with people with dementia. More importantly, she quickly established rapport with Kate. That set the stage for an hour-long conversation before they had to leave. As we were saying our goodbyes, my friend said something nice to Kate who was unable to respond verbally. The tears in her eyes said it all. She was touched by someone who entered her life as a stranger but left her feeling as though she were a longtime friend.

Our experience at dinner turned out to be another touching experience. We had another anniversary celebration. This time at a new restaurant but with a server who has taken care of us at three different places over the past few years. It was good to see her again. Just as I am telling you about her, she had told her associates, including the manager, about us. We met several of them and were very well-cared for. The meal itself was outstanding. At the end of the meal, we had quite a surprise. Our server said the evening was “on her.” She didn’t even accept a tip.

Experiences like these are bright spots in our lives. They sustain us through difficult times, and we have enough of them to keep us going. I feel grateful.

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