Diseases like Alzheimer’s have an insidious companion called apathy.
Apathetic behaviour is naturally isolating as those around the individual take it as a sign of disinterest instead of a sign that their ‘starter motor’ needs a little boost.
It is important to acknowledge that as human beings, we are truly wired to connect to others and when we are isolated and lonely we lose that connectedness. Taking care of our own social networks and continuing to engage with others is one of the ways we can maintain brain health throughout our lives. In fact, recent research shows that social isolation is a higher risk factor for premature death than even smoking or high blood pressure.
Create Social Connections
Reaching out to others who seem disinterested and giving their ‘starter motors‘ a little boost can enrich us in ways we never imagined. I have had incredible experiences getting to know people who were outside of my usual social network. All it takes is an openness on our part to engage…and you just never know where the experience will take you.
The social network you build today will stand you in good stead for the future. Building and being engaged in a community is an important way of maintaining brain health so visit a friend or add a social activity to your daily routine.
It’s one thing to reject apathy for ourselves – it’s another thing entirely to help another person overcome it.
One way to help someone in your life who needs a ‘starter motor’ boost is to make it easy to say yes. Suggest activities that are short and don’t require a lot of effort to do. This could be something as simple as discussing what you see out the window or listening to a song together. As your loved one gets used to these pleasant activities, try ones that involve more physical or mental exertion such as taking a walk or completing a crossword puzzle.
Enthusiasm, affection and patience are also important. Apathetic behaviour is part of the disease – not part of the person. So keep that in mind and don’t get discouraged when your efforts are not met with an enthusiastic ‘yes’. It is worth persevering.