A guide to keeping your friends

A few days ago I wrote about what people need to do in order to be a 'good friend' and I said at the time that I sometimes feel friends drop by the wayside not because they don't want to help but because they don't know how.  They don't mention your difficulties because they don't know what to say or what words to use.  If this is the case then I feel it's our job to make their life easier and so, to add to the guide I wrote then, here is another which hopefully will make everyone's life easier still.

Again the focus here is dementia and the suggestions that follow are what's worked for us and our friends.  Your friends may be different but I don't really think so.  If, after all this, your friends don't respond then I would suggest it might be time to widen your social circle and find new people to have fun with and who will support you.
  1. Give general information.  It's very easy to think that everyone knows about dementia just because you've done your research but most of them won't know anything other than that picture everyone has of someone withdrawn from the world and unable to communicate.  That, I can tell you, is a frightening vision.
  2. Give specific information.  I have learnt that just by telling people that Ash will be better if they don't ask him questions life has become easier for all of us.  If there is something specific you need people to do or not do then tell them.  This includes strangers in your midst.  Don't leave them to embarrass themselves by saying or doing the wrong thing if it can be avoided.  That's your responsibility.
  3. Invite people to go out with you.  The more you go out with friends the easier it will get for all concerned.  They will know what to expect and you will be able to learn what you need from them.
  4. Invite people to visit you.  Start small and with friends you feel completely comfortable with.  Plan it all so that you're confident with the situation which will put everyone else at ease and don't feel bad about saying 'thank you it's time you went home now' when you think your loved one has had enough.  True friends will understand and be grateful to you.
  5. Let people know that you may be at social events on your own.  They don't need to know why but they may need to learn not to ask but just to accept the situation and to welcome you as an equally important half of a couple.
  6. If someone says 'how can I help?' tell them.  Be specific.  Do you need someone to sit with your other half so you can have a break?  Would you like to go out for lunch or a coffee with that friend so you can feel a little more like your old self?  Say so.  If you don't tell them they can't read your mind.
So to summarise, be open with your friends, give them as much information as you can, assume that people want to help until proved otherwise, tell people what you need from them and promise yourself that you'll live life to the full for as long as possible taking as many friends along on your journey as you can.  Everyone loves a positive attitude.  Make yours the one they want to spend time with.

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