#DementiaActionWeek – Thought for the Day – Connection

New Friendships & Connection

It is well documented how feeling socially connected has been shown to lower anxiety and depression and help to regulate emotions. After a diagnosis, families often say that friends no longer visit as they don’t know how to talk to someone with dementia. At a time of life when it is often quite difficult to even consider making new friends, this happens naturally in every Filo group. The small group size is key to enabling people to feel comfortable and the weekly get-togethers with the same host and same group of people provide an opportunity to bond over lunch and shared activities. Despite quite significant memory loss, there is always something that people will remember about the host or other members of the group or, more often than not, about the host’s dog!

My group of three could never remember my name nor each other’s names. To help them remember what the day was about, and to remember each other’s names (which all started with the letter ‘M’), we started to talk about ‘The Three Ms’ as though they were a pop group like the Three Degrees. On the car journey each week, having picked up the first ‘M’, excitement would grow as we picked up another, then another. We would try to compose a signature tune to sing in the car – with differing versions each week, most morphing into hymns or fizzling out into nonsense rhymes to much hilarity. When one member would repeatedly ask what we were doing or where we were going, someone else would say ‘Oh you know, it’s the Three Ms today! We’re going out for lunch.’

There is also a comfort in being in a small group of people who experience similar issues such as memory loss and being able to laugh with each other about no-one being sure what day it is or what it was that we were looking for. On a Filo day, we have the luxury of time and space for such things not to matter.

Everyday we are reminded of how important the sense of belonging to a group is to people’s wellbeing and how it gives Filo participants a purpose, something to look forward to and a new lease of life.